Smoking and Oral Health: How it affects your Gums

Updated at: Jan 31, 2013
Smoking and Oral Health: How it affects your Gums
Editorial Team
Oral Health ConditionsWritten by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Jan 31, 2013

Do you realize that your oral health is at risk every time you light up a cigarette? Smoking cigarettes, a pipe or a cigar is a major risk factor for developing cancer of the larynx, mouth, throat and esophagus. If you both smoke and drink the risk of oral cancer is higher.


Oral cancer may involve the lips (usually the lower lip), inside of cheek, the back of the throat, the tonsils or the salivary glands. Oral cancers are more frequent in men as compared to women. Oral cancers have a poor prognosis. As most people are not aware or ignore early symptoms, oral cancers are often detected when they are in advanced stage. If not diagnosed in early stages it may need surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.


No Smoke, But Plenty Of Danger


Do you know that it is the use of tobacco that increases the risk of oral cancer? Smoking cigarettes, a pipe or a cigar increase the risk of oral cancer but chewing tobacco is also a major risk factor for oral cancer. The risk of oral cancer is 50 times higher in chronic users of smokeless tobacco as compared to non-users. So avoid smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes, chewing tobacco or dipping snuff to reduce your risk of oral cancer. The risk of cancer is greatly reduced even if a person stops use of tobacco after many years of use. Use of both alcohol and tobacco especially increases the risk of oral cancer.


Oral Cancer: Signs and Symptoms


Most people are not aware or ignore early symptoms of oral cancers. Hence these cancers are often detected when they are in advanced stage. Even if you are aware of the signs and symptoms you won't always be able to detect the earliest warning signs of oral cancer. So consult your dentist and physician regularly for oral and health check up especially if you use tobacco. A doctor is trained to notice early warning signs of a cancer.


If you have any of the following symptoms consult your dentist

  • A lesion, patch or lump on the lips, gums, cheek, or tongue that bleeds easily and doesn't heal
  • Loss of sensation or numbness in the mouth
  • Difficulty or pain on chewing or swallowing food
  • Sensation that a lump is caught in your throat with no known cause
  • Swelling on the jaw that prevents the dentures from fitting well
  • Change or hoarseness of voice


Three Good Reasons to See a Dentist


If you are diagnosed with oral cancer, go for a thorough dental checkup at least two weeks before your treatment starts.

  • Inform your dentist about your problem and provide the telephone number of the physician who is handling the cancer therapy so that your oral care can be coordinated and treated well.
  • Many people undergoing cancer treatment are unaware of the effects of treatment on the teeth, gums, salivary glands and other oral tissues. At times they may delay or stop the cancer treatment due to the painful side effects in their mouths. Your dentist can review your oral health and make you aware of the side effects of the treatment.
  • Your dentist after review of your oral health can recommend a mouthrinse, fluoride gel besides daily brushing to maintain your oral health during treatment. Proper oral care at home can reduce the possibility of tooth decay.

Coordination of treatment between your dentist and oncologist, before and during cancer treatment, can make your recovery as uncomplicated as possible.



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