If you’ve been hitting the tobacco for a while, chances are your teeth turned yellow. Maybe with some brown stains. Called smoker’s teeth, this usually happens when nicotine particles build up inside tooth enamel pores, making the discoloration more prominent. What smoking does to your teeth goes beyond tartar on the teeth. But how smoking affects your teeth is quite a complicated topic.
To understand the connection between smoking and teeth, let’s first look at how smoking affects your mouth in general. By inhaling the smoke through your mouth, you expose your oral cavity to its contents. Once exposed, that’s where the harm begins. The chemicals in tobacco products—even smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco—are shown to suppress your immune response. This, in turn, hampers the ability of your teeth and gums to protect themselves from other oral health problems, leading to an increased risk of ailments like bad breath and oral cancer.
That said, let’s look at all the ways how smoking affects your teeth:
Smoking changes the appearance and smell of your mouth
One of the more obvious ways of how smoking affects your teeth is by changing how your teeth look. When your teeth get discolored, it’s usually because of deposits of small particles inside your enamel pores. Cigarettes, in particular, have a flurry of chemicals that can pile into those pores, making the stains all-the-more visible.
But this isn’t the only oral problem people who smoke face. They’re also at an increased risk of bad breath. Aside from the scent of the smoke itself, other factors contribute to bad breath, such as gum disease and restricted saliva flow.
Smoking disrupts your normal blood flow
You might be wondering—what does blood flow have to do with oral health? A lot, actually. When there’s a constricted blood flow around your gum tissue, for instance, it can inflame the area. This could then lead to gingivitis, which can turn into periodontitis if left untreated.
Studies show that smoking elevates your blood pressure in general, including the blood flow to your gum tissue. This inflammation also makes it hard for your teeth and gums to combat any bacterial attacks, placing you at an increased risk of oral infections.
Smoking interferes with your saliva flow
Among other things, the chemicals in tobacco products—smokeless tobacco products included—can limit your saliva flow. Usually, the more you chew, the more your teeth produce saliva. However, when you smoke, this process gets disrupted in two ways. For one, smoking suppresses your appetite, giving people who smoke fewer opportunities to activate their saliva flow. For another, the ingredients themselves are known to both repress saliva production and strip down its protective molecules, making it an agent of oral cancers.
But why is this a big deal? Well, your saliva plays a lot of roles in protecting your oral cavity. For one, it’s responsible for dissolving any stray sugars that might be staying over your teeth surfaces. This brings people who smoke at an increased risk of tooth decay. For another, it helps keep the balance of oral bacteria in your mouth, thanks to its pH. Taking away all its protective properties turns it into a detriment to your teeth and gums.