World No Tobacco Day 2020: This is what tobacco use does to your oral health
Your oral cavity is the first to get exposed and the harmful effects start there itself.
According to the global adult tobacco survey (GATS) 2016-2017, there are 99.5 million people who smoke and 199.4 million people who chew tobacco in India. Tobacco is available in two forms: smoked and smokeless and no matter which kind you pick, tobacco use can slowly kill you. Your oral cavity is the first to get exposed and the harmful effects start there itself.
Effect on breath
Tobacco products have a distinct odour which stays in the mouth after consumption. Smoking tobacco also dries up the mouth which makes smokers more prone to gum diseases and bad breath.
Effect on teeth
Smoking or chewing tobacco can severely damage your teeth over time.
- Stains: People who chew or smoke tobacco tend to have yellow to dark brown and sometimes even black coloured teeth. This happens because the tar of the cigarette covers the outer surface of the teeth.
- Cavities: Chronic smokers may complain of dry mouth as smoking is also responsible for making the saliva thick. This restricts it from flowing over the surfaces of teeth and allows the bacteria to stay longer on the teeth, leading to cavities.
Effect on gums
Smoking not only damages the gums but also the bone under it.
- Gum Inflammation (Periodontitis): Smoking and chewing tobacco allow plaque and calculus (hard tartar) to build up over the surface of the teeth, which leads to inflammation of the gums, loosening of the teeth and bad breath.
- Smoker’s melanosis: Due to the tar in the cigarettes, chronic smokers get a black-brown pigmentation on their lips, roof of the mouth and gums.
Effect on tongue
Tobacco consumption can lead to the following effects on the tongue:
- Loss of taste: Tobacco can change the structure of finger-like projections (papillae) present on the surface of the tongue which damages the taste buds.
- Oral candidiasis: Smoking can lead to candidiasis, a fungal infection which looks like a white leathery patch that can be seen on the sides of the tongue.
- Hairy tongue: Smoking can cause the tongue papillae to overgrow, which makes the upper surface of the tongue appear black with hairlike projections on it.
Tobacco can lead to some precancerous conditions that can be reversed on quitting the use of tobacco.
- Leukoplakia: It is a white patch that is present on the skin of the cheeks. It is different from candidiasis as it has the potential to turn into cancer if not diagnosed early.
- Oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF): It is mostly seen in people who chew tobacco. In OSMF, the affected person is unable to open their mouth as there is a formation of bands in the cheeks which restricts the opening. If not treated, it can turn into cancer.
Oral cancer is the third most commonly occurring cancer in India. Continuous use of tobacco can lead to cancer anywhere in the oral cavity. Smoking tobacco can lead to the cancer of lips, voice box, food pipe and even lungs. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of oral cancer seen in India.
For more information, read our article on Smoking Effects on Teeth, Gums and Oral Health.
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