Ask a Dentist

May 28, 2021

Q: How can your Winnipeg dentist help you fight smoking related diseases?

Man with glasses and a cap on holding a cigarette between his fingers, about to take a smoke.

Smoking is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. There is no healthy exposure level when it comes to tobacco products, but when identifying whether you have mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, your dentist will be the first to notice.

At Dental Image Therapy Centres, we follow the guidelines set out by the Canadian Dental Association. It’s  recommended that each Canadian visits their dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings. If you practice this, that periodical contact allows your dentist to be the perfect detector for smoking-related diseases.

What Happens When You Smoke?

Clinical studies suggest smokers are prone to periodontal disease and poor oral health overall. Moreover, the health consequences of smoking do not stop at your teeth but harm nearly every organ in your body such as your lungs, kidney and stomach.

When you smoke, tobacco’s harmful chemicals pass through your mouth, creating a terrible odour and can even discolour your tongue. Soon, food will no longer taste good—if you can taste at all—and swallowing can become difficult. These symptoms make eating a chore, which may affect your everyday life.

How does smoking affect your teeth, specifically? The nicotine and tar in the cigarettes will begin staining your teeth and cause you to experience dry mouth. Dry mouth happens when your saliva production decreases, causing that cotton-ball feeling at the back of your throat. Saliva plays a huge role in keeping your mouth clean and healthy by rinsing out the bacteria and food particle buildup in your mouth. As your mouth becomes dry, your mouth has a decreased ability to fight off dental infections caused by bacteria which means it’s harder for your teeth to get their strength back.

Smokers may also start to develop severe periodontitis or gum disease that, if untreated, can induce tooth loss. The CDC reports that smokers have twice the risk for gum disease compared with a nonsmoker.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, there is a definitive link between smoking and the development of oral cancer. Oral cancer occurs when cells on the lips or in the mouth develop mutations in their DNA. The mutation changes cause the healthy cells in the mouth to die and the abnormal oral cancer cells to accumulate, which can form a tumor. With time, the cancer cells may spread to other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body.

Oral Cancer Can Be Deadly

At its early stages, the chances of survival greatly increase. The average five-year survival rate of patients with oral cancer is about 50 percent, primarily due to late detection of the disease. Early detection and prevention are prevalent to combat these smoking-related diseases.

Are you a heavy smoker? Do you think you may be at risk for smoking-related diseases? Visiting your Dental Image Therapy Centres’ dentist regularly can help them catch and identify oral cancer symptoms before it’s too late.  Seek care now at our dental clinics located in St. Vital Centre and Garden City Mall. 

While our dentists can identify early signs of smoking-related diseases, we encourage our patients to avoid smoking altogether and see their dentist regularly to reduce future risk of these diseases.