Smoking and Oral Health
Kick the Tobacco Habit
Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, quitting now can greatly reduce serious risks to your health. Eleven years after quitting, former smokers' likelihood of having periodontal (gum) disease was not significantly different from people who never smoked.
Even reducing the amount you smoke appears to help. One study found that smokers who reduced their smoking habit to less than half a pack a day had only three times the risk of developing gum disease compared with nonsmokers, which was significantly lower than the six times higher risk seen in those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day. Another study published in the Journal of the AmericanDental Association found that the mouth lesion leukoplakia completely resolved within 6 weeks of quitting in 97.5% of patients who used smokeless tobacco products.
Some statistics from the American Cancer Society present some other sobering reasons to quit smoking. They state that:
- About 90% of people with cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat use tobacco, and the risk of developing these cancers increases with the amount smoked or chewed and the duration of the habit. Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.
- About 37% of patients who persist in smoking after apparent cure of their cancer will develop second cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat, compared with only 6% of those who stop smoking.
How Can I Quit Tobacco?
To stop using tobacco, your dentist or doctor may be able to help you calm nicotine cravings with medications, such as nicotine gum and patches. Some of these products can be purchased over the counter; others require a prescription. Other medications (such as Zyban) require a prescription.
Smoking cessation classes and support groups are often used in tandem with drug therapy. These programs are offered through local hospitals in your community and sometimes through your employer or health insurance company. Ask your doctor or dentist for information on similar programs they may be familiar with.
Herbal remedies, as well as hypnosis and acupuncture, are other treatments that may help you kick the habit.