by Alexis Goodrich
Nicotine addiction is a hard habit to kick. In order to successfully quit, it’s important to surround yourself with powerful motivators. Whether it’s a support group, your family, or yourself, sometimes the most profound incentive is your health. It is widely known that cigarette smoking is a direct cause of lung cancer, heart disease, and a shortened life span. However, often times oral health side effects are overlooked. There are many ways cigarette smoking damages your oral health, and it’s important to understand the dangers of compromising your mouth.
Perhaps the most dangerous side effect is oral cancer. This is one of the most well known side effects, yet many smokers don’t understand the extent of it. Oral cancer refers to cancer of the following areas:
– Cheek lining
– Floor of the mouth
– Palate, or roof of the mouth
The most common type of oral cancer found is called squamous cell carcinoma, and these cells can often spread very quickly. Early detection is key and it’s important to look for warning signs and act accordingly. Symptoms can include tenderness, sore spots and enlarged/sore lymph nodes, which are located at the top of your neck. Over 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year and it will cause 8,000 deaths. Cigarette smoking is a direct cause and smokers looking to quit should use these startling numbers as motivation. The Bad Breath Report
Many smokers notice a change in the appearance of their gums. White, discolored, or bleeding gums are all signs of damage from cigarette smoking. Healthy gum should be pink in color and soft to the touch. The ingredients in tobacco products (over 600 of them!) interfere with normal tissue cell function, which can cause bone detachment and recession. Unhealthy gums affect the health of your entire mouth; loss of gums leads to loss of teeth, which are imperative to leading a normal life. White gums can be painful and will lead to further complications. It’s important to note that smokers who successfully quit can see a major change in their gum health. With cessation, tissue cells can return to their normal activity and increase blood flow to the gums. Gum disease won’t disappear over night but with proper brushing and flossing it is possible to reverse some of the damage.
Finally, many smokers notice the presence of leukoplakia, or white patches, which form on the inside surfaces of the tongue, mouth, and cheek. The patches are caused by a buildup of keratosis and are a result of prolonged irritation. The most common source of irritation that leads to leukoplakia is the use of tobacco. Over time the patches will harden and removal may be necessary. Although they are relatively painless, many smokers find them to be disruptive to daily activities like eating and drinking. Again, this side effect can be used as a motivator as it will subside once cessation has begun. Leukoplakia rarely occurs in non-smokers and it’s important to realize that this condition is a direct result of tobacco consumption.
Understanding the dangerous side effects cigarette smoking causes is the first step towards wanting to quit. Many of these side effects can be reversed with cessation and smokers should use these as powerful motivators. Our oral health affects our entire body and limiting tobacco use will help you lead a healthier and happier life.
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