As you well know, your mouth is a very important part of your body. Not only is it one of the first things others notice about you, it’s vital for communicating and for eating. This is why suffering from poor oral health can be so distressing–not only can it be uncomfortable or even painful, it can also make one feel self-conscious. Your dentist’s primary job is to help you establish and maintain good oral health, which means she may need to discuss with you what she will describe as good and bad oral health habits.
When it comes to establishing and maintaining optimal oral health, there are many good habits you will want to closely adhere to, and many bad habits you will want to avoid. One of the habits that your dentist will recommend you completely avoid is cigarette smoking. In addition to increasing your risk of experiencing a host of general health problems, this harmful habit can increase your risk of contracting oral cancer, as well as tooth discoloration, persistent bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay.
The Link Between Smoking and Oral Health Issues
The vast majority of undesirable oral health issues, including bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease, all stem from a common cause: the presence of harmful oral bacteria. The mouth contains a vast quantity of bacteria, and while many of them are perfectly harmless, others are quite dangerous. These harmful bacteria feed off the sugars we consume and produce powerful acids that can erode protective tooth enamel. Needless to say, the more harmful oral bacteria one has in their mouth, the more acids are produced and the more likely one is to suffer from bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease problems. Furthermore, when these harmful oral bacteria are allowed to remain in constant contact with the teeth and gums through immersion in sticky biofilm (like plaque), the risk of extensive oral health problems is even higher.
It is believed that the reason smoking is so incredibly harmful to oral health is because it increases biofilm formation, which means more harmful oral bacteria. Plaque often contains bacteria like Streptococcus mutans as well as lingering food particles and can stick to the teeth, causing decay and gum inflammation and disease. Smoking can also cause biofilm formation in other areas of the body, like the heart, where it can likewise cause extensive general health issues.
Unfortunately, once bacteria becomes immersed in biofilm, it can be very difficult to remove from the body. Biofilm actually protects harmful bacteria from a body’s natural immune response, shielding it from the antibodies that would remove it from the body. This allows it to remain indefinitely and potentially cause future infections. This is just one of the reasons it is so important to brush your teeth twice a day and floss your teeth once a day–this helps to remove biofilm and bacteria from your teeth. However, even daily brushing and flossing cannot eliminate all traces of biofilm on the teeth, which is why you should also visit your dentist every six months for thorough examinations and professional cleanings. It is also why you need to cut out anything that may be contributing to increased biofilm buildup, such as smoking.
Protecting Your Oral Health
Your oral health and overall health are very deeply intertwined. This means that those things that may adversely affect your overall health are likely to also adversely affect your oral health. It’s understandable that abstaining from smoking is often far better said than done, but it will be well worth the effect when both your oral health and overall health benefit immensely.
For more information about how smoking and other habits affect your oral health, contact your dentist, Dr. Best, today.