We all know that habitual smoking harms your major organ systems. Throat, lung, and heart cancer have each been linked with smoking. Many other serious illnesses that have been linked to smoking include heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and other respiratory conditions. But did you know that smoking may also increase your chances of developing plaque, cavities, and gum disease?
Comments by Dr. Ted Herrmann:
Miami dentistry professionals see it constantly: stained teeth and dry mouth associated with excessive smoking. This is not surprising—according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 46 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes regularly. The less-than-healthy habit does more than just stain teeth, however. Cigarette smoke contributes to a condition called dry mouth (i). This condition consequently leads to other oral health problems, including plaque buildup, tooth decay, and sometimes gum disease.
Dry Mouth: The Basics
Dry mouth is exactly what it sounds like: a condition whereby there is not enough saliva to maintain moisture in the mouth. It is natural to experience dry mouth infrequently. For example, dry mouth may result from heightened levels of fear, anxiety, or stress. However, perpetual dry mouth may lead to serious oral health problems. This is because those with dry mouth experience a deficiency of saliva which may lead to:
Believe it or not, digestion begins before food reaches the stomach. It begins as soon as our saliva comes into contact with the food in our mouth. The enzymes in saliva help to break down food for further digestion. When saliva is low, food particles are not breaken down completely. They may then become stuck in between the teeth and gums, setting the stage for future tooth decay.
Once food particles are trapped between the teeth, a culture of biofilm forms. This is the plaque that causes tooth decay, and it is normal kept in check by saliva. However, individuals with dry mouth have little saliva and, as a result, are predisposed to large levels of biofilm development. This increases the rate at which teeth experience decay and cavities.
Biofilm does more than facilitate tooth decay. The culture of bacteria may fester until it grows along the gum line. Then, the bacteria is able to infect the gums, causing gum disease commonly known as gingivitis.
Treating Dry Mouth
Methods of treating dry mouth will vary, depending on the cause. Holistic dentists will tell most patients, however, that there are lifestyle changes that will help reduce dry mouth. These include avoiding caffeinated beverages, chewing gum to stimulate saliva flow, using a humidifier at night, and avoiding tobacco products.
If you or a loved one have symptoms like perpetual dry feelings in the mouth, trouble swallowing, difficulty chewing, mouth sores, cracked lips, or frequent bad breath, contact Assure a Smile and speak with a professional dentist today.