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Smoking and Oral Health

By - Bad Breath Expert

As one of the unhealthiest substances to be introduced into the human body, cigarette smoke not only contributes to the development of lung cancer and heart disease but also to tooth decay, gum disease, chronic dry mouth and severe bad breath. Tobacco is rich in a volatile alkaloid called nicotine, which is considered even more addictive than methamphetamine. Nicotine is initially colorless until the process of preparing cigarette tobacco turns it brown. This sticky, thick brown nicotine is the reason a cigarette smoker's teeth are often discolored around the gumlines where dental plaque tends to accumulate as well. Smoking deposits concentrated levels of nicotine as well as thousands of other harmful chemicals into the mouth that erode teeth and gums. These chemicals include:

  1. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  2. arsenic
  3. Cadmium
  4. Radioactive-polonium 20
  5. Formaldehyde

Because nicotine is so highly addictive, over 70 percent of people who smoke but want to quit are never able to stop smoking. Additionally, nicotine acts as a depressant and stimulant by promoting the release of epinephrine while reducing peripheral nervous system actions. By making smokers feel relaxed and energized, nicotine accommodates any emotional need which greatly enhances its attractiveness as a drug. For help on how to quit smoking, visit

Clinical research has shown repeatedly that smoking can be a direct cause of the following dental problems:

  • Bad breath
  • Discoloration (yellowing and blackening) of the teeth
  • Gum and teeth disease (gingivitis, dental caries)
  • Salivary gland inflammation
  • Promotes build-up of tartar and plaque
  • Increases the risk of developing leukoplakia (a precancerous fungal disease associated with smoking)
  • Contributes to bone loss of the jaw due to advanced periodontitis
  • Inhibits proper healing following oral surgery, tooth extractions or comprehensive treatment for periodontitis

Smoking directly obstructs the ability for oral tissue cells to function normally. It also interferes with healthy blood flow to the mouth, tongue, gums and teeth roots. Combined with the destructive effects that nicotine has on tooth enamel, smoking may be the most damaging habit in which a person can indulge (other than poor diet and poor oral hygiene practices) that directly destroys and consumes teeth and gum health.

Smoking and Dry Mouth

Constant inhaling and exhaling will normally dry out the mouth due to excess air inhibiting the ability for saliva to remain. When coupled with the thousands of desiccating chemicals found in cigarette smoke, the problem of chronic dry mouthis severely aggravated. A mouth that consistently exhibits a dry, stagnant environment where oral debris such as mucus, food particles and dead tissue cells remain without the assistance of saliva to wash them away promotes the rapid growth of anaerobic bacteria.

Anaerobic Bad Breath Bacteria and Smoking

Anaerobic bacteria are bacteria that do not thrive in oxygenated, moist environments and therefore cannot live in a mouth where there is sufficient saliva flow and lack of mouth debris to consume. Moreover, this bacterial strain is directly responsible for tooth decay, gingivitis and other serious oral diseases due to the bacteria's ability to erode teeth enamel and infect gum tissue. Additionally, anaerobic bacteria emit odorous, sulfurous gases that produce the severe bad breathso common to habitual smokers. Fostered by a consistently dry mouth, accumulations of plaque and tartar encouraged by a regular supply of nicotine and lack of proper oral care, anaerobic bacteria are given free rein to overwhelm a smoker's mouth and inflict tooth decay, gum disease and the possibility of irreversible damage to the bone structure supporting the jaw and teeth.

Gingivitis and Smoking

gum-disease-diagram Another oral disease associated with smoking is acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG). This occurs due to excessive amounts of anaerobes swarming in the mouth that target gums and cause a severe, bleeding infection. Unless treatment is initiated, an ANUG infection can destroy the periodontal ligaments responsible for supporting teeth and produce extreme tooth loss. In addition to smoking, ANUG sufferers are commonly affected by sudden emotional stress, long-term lack of sleep and poor nutritional habits which exacerbate the negative oral health effects of smoking. While antibiotics can sometimes reverse and cure a case of ANUG, dentists must frequently perform extensive periodontal treatments or even surgery to totally reverse the damage inflicted by massive amounts of anaerobic bacteria.

Smokeless Tobacco and Bad Breath

Smokeless tobacco products are no better than cigarettes in regards to causing oral diseases. In fact, chewing tobacco and snuff contain over 20 more chemicals than cigarette tobacco does and increases the risk of esophageal, throat and mouth cancer. Additionally, smokeless tobacco enhances gum irritation and expedites shrinkage of gum tissue away from the tops of the teeth. Exposing even a small portion of teeth roots facilitates the ability of anaerobic bacteria to accumulate in these "pockets" and avoid removal by saliva flow or even regular brushing. Tooth decay is unavoidable when this occurs, along with increased tooth sensitivity to cold and hot food items.

Treatment for Smokers Breath

For smokers who are experiencing difficulty with quitting the habit, TheraBreath's line of specially formulated oral hygiene products offers highly effective toothpastes, oral rinses and chewing gums that help eliminate bad breath, dry mouth and anaerobic bacteria. These products work to counter the detrimental effects of smoking by introducing a patented ingredient called OXYD-8 into all areas of the oral cavity that thoroughly oxygenates the mouth and stimulates saliva flow in order to neutralize corrosive oral acids responsible for tooth and gum disease.

dr-harold-katz-therabreathDr. Harold Katz, world famous bacteriologist and dentist, created TheraBreath oral health products while researching ways to alleviate his daughter's chronic halitosis. His scientific investigations led him to discover the primary reason behind bad breath (anaerobic bacteria) and how these bacteria directly lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Therabreath Dry Mouth Treatment Products Recently, Dr. Katz improved the ability of TheraBreath's PLUS Rinse Formula to eliminate smoker's bad breath and dry mouth by adding xylitol, green tea and aloe vera - all natural ingredients that have been tested and validated to promote oral health. Another of Dr. Katz's products smokers will find helpful are TheraBreath's Mouth Wetting Lozenges. These lozenges provide a cool, refreshing citrus mint flavor enhanced with the bacteria-fighting ingredients xylitol and zinc to effectively rid your mouth of foul odors and destructive germs. The lozenges also work in three distinct stages to increase one's saliva flow. While refraining from smoking is best for overall health, the highly addictive quality of nicotine makes it extremely difficult for most smokers to quit. However, using TheraBreath toothpaste, mouthwash, rinse and lozenges as part of your daily oral health routine will help reduce the risk of developing teeth and gum disease as well as eliminate bad breath and dry mouth associated with smoking cigarettes or chewing smokeless tobacco.

Video on Smoking and Oral Health

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