Dentists explain why quitting smokes improves more than bad breath
SUMMARY: There are any number of reasons to cut back on a nicotine habit, and among them is the halitosis that can come from cigarette use. A group of nationally renowned dental health experts recently answered several questions on the topic, saying that a reduction in bad breath is one of many benefits that may result from smoking cessation.
Posted: May 4, 2011
There are any number of reasons to cut back on a nicotine habit, and among them is the halitosis that can come from cigarette use. A group of nationally renowned dental health experts recently answered several questions on the topic, saying that a reduction in bad breath is one of many benefits that may result from smoking cessation.
In a question-and-answer report published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, a quintet of dentists, oral health experts, periodontologists and cancer researchers addressed the havoc that smoking wreaks on otherwise healthy mouths.
Karen Crews, a professor in the Department of Diagnostic Sciences, University of Mississippi School of Dentistry, said that an estimated 26 percent of all dental patients use cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or a pipe. She noted along with her colleagues that even though the habit is quite prevalent in the U.S., it still behooves a dentist to recommend quitting to their patients.
What if patients take offense? That is a risk that oral healthcare professionals must take, said Robert Mecklenburg, the coordinator of Tobacco and Oral Health Initiatives for the National Cancer Institute's Tobacco Control Research Branch.
"It is ethical to integrate this service into clinical practice," he wrote. "Ignoring tobacco use when providing periodontal services would be akin to ignoring [cavities] when providing restorations."
Mecklenburg and his team also point to the preventative and public health benefits of encouraging people to quit using tobacco.
While many people are aware that smoking causes immediate bad breath, there are a number of less widely known ways in which tobacco products can leave oral odor behind. The most salient is periodontal disease, which the study's authors said is quite likely to occur in people who smoke for years on end.
However, consider some of the sneakier ways that tobacco causes bad breath. Cigars Magazine has reported that individuals who smoke a stogie before bed are more likely to wake up with morning breath.
The mechanism is fairly simple - dry mouth causes morning breath, and tobacco use dries the mouth. Using a specialty breath freshening mouthwash can mute this effect.
However, some heavy users of tobacco smoke both before bed and right after waking. This habit can dry the mouth out all night, allowing anaerobic bacteria to run wild on the tongue. Then, after awakening, when the mouth naturally begins to produce more saliva to re-wet itself, further smoking can extend morning breath for hours longer than it would typically last.