Ever since you started smoking cigarettes, you’ve noticed that your mouth seems dryer than it used to. While smoking can have a range of negative effects on one’s oral health, dry mouth alone can lead to a number of issues. Here are some of the effects dry mouth has on your overall oral health and what you can do to avoid them.
How Smoking Leads to Dry Mouth
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health conducted a study on how smoking impacts oral health. Out of the participants, 39% of smokers and 12% of non-smokers reported experiencing at least one symptom of dry mouth. This is because the nicotine in tobacco reduces saliva flow.
Along with helping you chew, taste, and swallow, saliva also helps wash away germs and bacteria related to oral health issues. An inadequate amount of moisture in the mouth makes it easier for harmful bacteria to flourish and attack the tooth enamel and gums. If the tooth enamel is weakened enough, cavities will begin to form and can potentially lead to serious dental infections that impact your overall health. If the gums become infected, you could develop gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss in the US and can potentially increase your risk of heart disease.
How Smokers Can Increase Saliva Production
Though the best treatment for dry mouth caused by smoking is to quit tobacco use all together, there are a few things that may be able to help increase your saliva production. Some of things you could try include:
- Drink plenty of water
- Chew xylitol gum or eat sugar-free mints to increase saliva production
- Cut back on sugary, spicy, salty, and caffeinated foods and drinks
- Increase the level of moisture in your home by using a humidifier
- Minimize alcohol intake
Overall Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
While quitting smoking earlier in life yields greater health benefits, it’s beneficial to your overall health at any age. Some of the benefits include:
- Reducing the risk of premature death and adding up to 10 years to your life expectancy
- Improving reproductive health
- Lessening the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, COPD, and cancer
- Rapidly improving high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels
- Reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure
- Sharply dropping the risk of coronary heart disease 1-2 years after stopping
Quitting smoking all together is by far the best way to improve your oral and overall health. If you decide to continue, make sure to visit your dentist on a regular basis and make sure you keep your mouth well moisturized to try to keep your teeth where they belong.
About the Author
Dr. James Schumacher and his Jacksonville team know that what differentiates a good dentist from a truly great one is their ability to provide patients with a fully personalized treatment plan and a comfortable, stress-free experience. For over 30 years, he has made it his goal to provide exactly that. Using advanced dental technology, Dr. Schumacher and his team aim to improve the dental health of their patients one smile at a time. Call them at (904) 388-3559 or visit their website to learn more about how smoking can lead to dry mouth and what you can do about it.