Tobacco

Most of us are aware of the connection between heart and lung diseases and tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco. Lesser known are the adverse effects of these products on oral health. Among some of the associated problems are bad breath, stained teeth and tongue, and diminished taste sensation. More serious problems include gum disease and oral cancer.

Smoking is a significant factor in the development of gum disease. Smokers are more susceptible to tartar (hard deposit) build up on the teeth. This predisposes the gum tissue to infection and the formation of pockets around the teeth. Bacteria residing in these pockets destroy the tissue and bone resulting in gum recession, tooth exposure and infection, and ultimately tooth loss.

Chemicals in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco damage the oral tissue resulting in oral cancer. The most typical locations of this disease include the sides and under-surface of the tongue, floor of the mouth, and sides of the lips and cheeks (see oral lesions).

Early detection of oral cancer vastly improves survival rates while early detection of gum disease can prevent tooth loss. This emphasizes on the importance of regular examination as an important tool in the diagnosis and treatment of these devastating diseases.