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Smokers vs. The Dentist

The Tough Truth

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There's been a lot of good news about smoking in Australia recently. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the number of smokers in the country has decreased by nearly 10% over the last two decades. Back in 1994 one in four Aussie adults smoked. By 2015 that had been cut to one in seven, and the numbers are still dropping.

However, that's still plenty of people lighting up on a regular basis. Do most of those people probably want to quit? More than likely. But it's tough, we know that. Lots of folks have to try, try and try again before they finally manage to kick the habit for good, so if you're struggling, you're not alone.

The one thing we do know as dentists is that whether they are actively trying to stop smoking or not, lots of smokers avoid coming to see us. And even if they do, they are often embarrassed, because they know that the lingering 'smoker's breath' and the discolouration years of nicotine causes on the teeth isn't attractive at all. 

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There are however, even bigger oral health concerns that smokers should be aware of. Smokers are at an increased risk for all of the following:

  • A dulled sense of taste and smell, even if they don’t know it. Often, when a person stops smoking it's the first time they realise all of the wonderful taste experiences and everyday scents they've been missing!

  • Slow healing after a tooth extraction or other dental surgery. This can seriously impact the effectiveness of what can be rather helpful and sometimes even transformative oral health treatments.

  • Gum disease. Gum disease is nasty stuff. It does not just affect smokers of course but it does tend to be a little worse, and harder to treat effectively, if the patient being treated smokes. 

  • Oral cancer. This is obviously the biggie. Not to be overly heavy but smoking seriously increases the risk that you will develop some form of oral cancer.

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By the way, we should point out that it is not just cigarette smokers who are at an increased risk for these oral health problems. Cigar smoking and tobacco chewing can be just as bad. And the bad news for vapers is that an increasing number of dental case studies and research projects are finding that vaping can potentially be as bad for your oral health as smoking regular cigarettes.

The one thing you should not do as you try to kick your habit though? Avoid seeing the dentist on a regular basis. Dentists, although yes, we will try and encourage you to stop smoking/vaping are not overly judgmental people. We get that it's hard and what we'd like to do is to address any damage you've already suffered to your oral health as a smoker while helping you learn to minimise future problems.

If you are still smoking, try all of the following, starting today:

  • Cut down as far as you are able. Every little step counts!

  • Pay particular attention to brushing your teeth at least twice a day

  • Try making use of a smoker's toothpaste (but make sure it's one that contains fluoride too)

  • Keep trying to quit. It really is better for your oral health, your overall health and even all the people around you.

Emergency Dentist Sydney Says:

Smoking is not good for your health, including your oral health. But it should not be a reason to skip dental treatment. Sticking to your regular checkup schedule - and seeking help right away if you experience tooth pain - can help minimize the damage smoking does to your teeth and gums.

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