It's universally known that smoking is bad for you. But did you know that smoking can stain your teeth, damage your gums, and even cause oral cancer?
How Smoking Harms Your Mouth
Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe hurt your oral health in three major ways. It dries out your mouth, decreases blood circulation, and stains your teeth.
A dry mouth is a mouth primed for bacteria. Your saliva is your body's natural way of washing away enamel-eating bacteria. Without saliva, the bacteria will form tartar and plaque. This leads to bad breath, cavities, and gum disease.
Nicotine decreases blood flow in your mouth. Without enough blood flow, your gums may begin to recede from your teeth. Receding gums can expose the roots of your teeth and loosen them from their sockets.
Lastly, tar is extremely staining. Yellowing can happen very quickly, and over the years your teeth may even turn brown.
How to Get Your Smile Back
There are many options for restoring your smile after you kick a smoking habit. Your options will depend on the severity of staining or decay.
The most obvious damage to your teeth is usually how badly they are stained. For slight yellowing, upgrading to a whitening toothpaste and mouthwash is usually enough. You can also try at-home whitening strips. Be sure to follow the directions, as overuse can damage your enamel.
You can also get your teeth whitening professionally. Your dentist has access to more powerful bleaching agents that will whiten your teeth faster. They will also help you protect your gums with protective rubber covers or gels. They may also use a high-intensity light or laser to speed up the process.
If your teeth are more brown than yellow, then you might not be happy with just whitening. In this case, you should ask about veneers. Veneers are thin slices of white porcelain or ceramic that are cemented to your teeth. They are non-invasive, long-lasting and can give you a white and even smile in a short time. A cosmetic dentist can help you decide what veneer is right for your case.
If you have tooth decay, severe gum disease, or missing teeth you might need more intense restoration.
The more extensive the damage, the more your dentist will need to focus on making your teeth structurally sound and healthy. You should make sure your teeth are strong before you worry about how yellow they look.
Quitting smoking is the hard part of improving your smile. Once you've kicked the habit, see your dentist (such as Karla M. Kreger D.D.S.) for recommendations and an oral cancer screening. With their help, you can get your smile and your confidence back.