The Rapid Decline In Smoking
And how your oral health will be all the better for it.
A recent report has noted that cigarette consumption in England fell by just under 1.5 billion cigarettes each year between 2011 and 2018. That equates to approximately a quarter less cigarettes being smoked on a regular basis than previously. This is good news for the general health of the nation and also for our oral health too.
Smoking is a leading cause of gum disease and oral cancers and the reduction in the number of smokers, and a reduction in cigarettes smoked by those who still do, can only be a very positive thing.
We shouldn’t be complacent though, and at The Dental Centre Bedford, we will continue to encourage our patients to quit smoking as best as we can.
Why the fall in smoking?
It has been a long time since doctors recommended taking up smoking to help people to relax. As more and more studies showed the risks of smoking, it became obvious that this was a serious issue that needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, one of the main ‘enjoyments’ of smoking was the nicotine ‘hit’ that it gave. This proved to be very addictive and when people tried to stop, they found that they suffered from a whole host of withdrawal symptoms which resulted in them failing to quit.
Some of these withdrawal symptoms can now be better managed through nicotine gums and patches which gradually reduce the quantity of nicotine, allowing the smoker to gradually reduce their habit. Although nicotine is addictive, it is not one of the more harmful ingredients in cigarettes, with tar and various carcinogens causing most of the damage. To this end, e-cigarettes or vaping products have proved to be a great help to those who wished to stop. However, the jury is still out on the safety of this method too.
Perhaps the biggest change though came when legislation was passed which banned the smoking of cigarettes and similar products in many public spaces, and perhaps especially in pubs and bars. This inevitably caused some concern to some smokers, but the majority seem to have accepted it quite readily and often used it as a ‘trigger’ to take action to quit the habit themselves.
The dangers of smoking
We probably don’t need to tell our Bedford patients about the risks of smoking for our general health. Lung and heart diseases are often linked to smoking and there is plenty of information by medical experts available to read on the subject.
From a dental perspective, there are a number of areas where smoking has a negative impact on the oral health of our patients.
At the most ‘trivial’ end of this is the unsightly appearance of badly stained smokers teeth. Unlike much tooth discolouration, this can often be too significant to be restored through a straightforward teeth whitening procedure, particularly where the staining is significant and long-established. Anyone who has smoked regularly for a period of time, and who wants to have whiter teeth, perhaps having now stopped, could consider porcelain veneers where whitening proves ineffective.
Gum disease and oral cancers
Another common problem where smoking increases the risk, is gum disease. A dry mouth and irritation caused by smoking means that gingivitis and periodontitis are generally more prevalent in smokers than in non smokers. This can result in a range of problems, from sore and bleeding gums, bad breath or halitosis and even bone degradation which can cause teeth to become loose and wobbly, and sometimes, to fall out. Where this is detected early enough, it can be manged and often reversed through regular hygiene treatments. More invasive treatment is likely though once gum disease reaches an advanced stage.
Oral cancers are less common but it is estimated that around 7,000 people each year are diagnosed with it in the UK and this number is believed to be rising. Oral cancers can prove fatal and are likely to affect your quality of life. Stopping smoking will greatly reduce your risk.
Just a quick word on vaping as we have occasionally been asked if this is safer than cigarettes. The medical guidelines say that it definitely is, but it is also important to remember that this is a relatively new phenomenon and the absolute safety is unknown. It is possible, that further down the road, serious health implications might be found to be caused by vaping and and this is well worth bearing in mind. If you can, it is much better to stop smoking altogether.
Whether you smoke or not, in order to have a healthy mouth, it is important that you are examined at least every six months by your dentist. If you live in Bedfordshire and are looking for a local practice to register with, why not call The Dental Centre Bedford for an appointment? You can call us on 01234 819868.