The Impact Of Smoking On Oral Health

dentist in park ridge

YOU’RE PROBABLY FAMILIAR with some of the ways smoking impacts our health, particularly lung cancer. However, that’s not where the damage ends. Smoking can harm every part of the body, including our oral health. And the problems don’t end with stained teeth and bad breath.

Gum Disease

Gum disease begins as an inflammation of the gums, which, if left untreated, can lead to serious damage to the gum tissue, tooth loss, and even bone loss in the jaw. It can also give bacteria access to the bloodstream, risking life-threatening infections. Smoking doubles the risk of developing gum disease by introducing hundreds of toxins into the mouth, and it also makes gum disease harder to treat.

Smoker’s Keratosis

One particularly strange effect smoking can have on oral health is that it can produce white patches on the roof of the mouth. These are stomatitis nicotina, or smoker’s keratosis. The condition is not well understood, but the white patches could be the result of inflammation of the mucous glands in the mouth. It usually isn’t painful, but it can be pre-cancerous.

Oral Cancer

Four out of every five people diagnosed with oral cancer smoke or chew tobacco. Oral cancer is cancer that affects any of the tissues in the mouth and throat. Early symptoms include unusual white patches, persistent sores or pain, difficulty chewing or swallowing, swelling, numbness, and the sensation of having something lodged in the throat. The dentist is the first line of defense against oral cancer, as many of these symptoms can be caught early during a regular dental exam.

Secondhand Smoke

Even people who don’t smoke can still be negatively affected by secondhand smoke. Studies suggest a link between cavities (in both baby teeth and adult teeth) and regular exposure to secondhand smoke. The dangers of secondhand smoke are particularly serious for infants and young children. They include asthma attacks, infections, and even SIDS.

It’s Never Too Late To Quit

Luckily, smoking is a very preventable cause of all these different dental problems. All we have to do is quit smoking or never pick up the habit in the first place. Even those with a long history of smoking can significantly improve their chances of avoiding health complications by quitting, so don’t think there’s nothing you can gain from it!


We’re Waiting To Help You!

There are many resources available for smokers who need help quitting. Some of the best ones are supportive friends, family, and counselors. You can also find a lot of great information on the CDC’s website. We, as your dental health specialists, care deeply about your overall health. If you are a smoker, be sure to schedule regular dental exams, sometimes more than two a year, so that your mouth can stay healthy!

We can’t wait to see you!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

How A Nail Biting Habit Affects The Teeth

dentist in park ridgeNAIL BITING IS A HABIT shared by between a quarter and a third of children and nearly half of teenagers. Compulsive behaviors don’t always have negative effects on a person’s physical health, but this one definitely does. In addition to leaving the nails torn and uneven and doing damage to the nail beds, nail biting can lead to a variety of oral health complications.

Nail Biting Versus Teeth And Gums

You might think that your teeth are much tougher than your fingernails, but over time, nail biting can cause significant damage to both teeth and gums. Here are some of the biggest ways this happens:

  • Erosion, chipping, and cracking: the grinding friction of teeth against nails can gradually wear the enamel away, or even cause teeth to chip or crack.
  • Malocclusion and gaps: biting nails doesn’t just damage the teeth, it can also cause them to move, leading to malocclusions (problems with the bite) and gaps.
  • Root resorption: possibly the scariest thing nail biting can do to teeth is cause the jaw bone to reabsorb the roots, weakening them and leaving them more vulnerable to falling out. This is an even greater risk for people with wire braces.
  • Gingivitis: a lot of dirt and germs get trapped under our fingernails, and when we chew on them, that all gets transferred to our mouths, which can result in gum disease.
  • Bruxism: a nail biting habit can increase a person’s risk of developing a chronic teeth-grinding habit, which comes with even more oral health problems, along with headaches and soreness.

Why Does Nail Biting Happen?

If nail biting has such unpleasant consequences, then why do so many people do it? It isn’t fully understood yet, but studies have indicated that it can be an effect of anxiety, boredom, or perfectionism. Similar repetitive behaviors include skin picking and hair pulling. Often, people may not even notice themselves doing it, and this can make it much harder to stop.

Tips To Help Break The Habit

Until more is known about nail biting and what causes it, it can be difficult to know the best things to do to break the habit, but here are a few strategies that can help:

  • Trim your nails regularly so you don’t have anything to bite.
  • Paint your nails with bitter-tasting polish so biting becomes associated with a nasty taste.
  • Get a manicure! If your nails are pretty, you’ll be more motivated to keep them that way.
  • Swap the nail biting habit with a more harmless way to fidget, like silly putty or a stress ball.
  • Figure out your triggers. When you know what sets off the nail biting, you can plan ahead and do something different.
  • Make stopping a gradual process. Choose one nail at a time to stop biting, and maybe cover it so you physically can’t bite it. Add more fingernails to the bite ban until there aren’t any left!

We’re Rooting For You!

The oral health of our patients is of course our highest priority, and that means we’re here to help you overcome habits that threaten your teeth and gums! If you need help kicking your habit, don’t hesitate to enlist ours!

We’re here to help you keep your oral health on track!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user Photo by Thomas used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.