Watch Your Mouth

75 To 90 Percent of All Oral Cancers Are Due To Smoking And Drinking

The fact that smoking causes cancer is no secret and, since the mouth is the first place the lit cigarette goes, it's easy to see why oral cancers are so prolific among smokers. Smokers can boast a two to five times higher risk of oral cancer than those who don't smoke. It has been estimated that between 75 to 90 percent of all cases of oral cancer can be attributed to the combination of smoking and drinking alcohol. This may be due to the fact that alcohol dissolves certain carcinogenic compounds in tobacco smoke. Another possibility is that alcohol increases the permeability of the flesh in the mouth. Either way, once again we can assert that "smoking causes cancer."

Cancer Isn't The Only Oral Disease Smoking Causes

Leukoplakia, believed to be a premalignant lesion which is associated with the development of oral cancer, has tobacco as its most important predictor. People who smoke increase the risk of developing leukoplakia by six-fold. Leukoplakia is significantly more present on the floor of the mouth of smokers than of those who do not smoke. The good news is that the lesions go into regression when the person stops smoking.

Oral candidiasis and hairy tongue are two mouth cavity afflictions that are also associated with smoking. Cigarette smoke has been associated with a variety of changes in the oral cavity affecting the naturally occurring fungi and bacteria in the mouth, most notably Candida, which in turn causes oral candidiasis. It has been noted in some research that when a person stops smoking, the Candida infections go away. "Hairy tongue" or "black hairy tongue", are oral lesions formed on the surface of the tongue of heavy smokers, giving the tongue a furry appearance. It's a benign condition, but it isn't a pleasant one.

Cigarette Smoking And Periodonal Health Issues

Beside the visible sores and lesions, there are other negative effects to the mouth that are caused through smoking. Tooth discoloration, bad breath, and the loss of smell and taste seem to go hand-in-hand with smoking. Cigarette smoking is a risk factor in periodontitis and has a direct influence on periodontal health regardless of oral hygiene practice, age, race, gender, socioeconomic status or frequency of dental visits. Cigarette smoking affects the immune response systems of the smoker and resistance lowers, allowing for inflammation in the gums and increased gingival recession. The smoker's response to bacterial plaque, which causes such things as bone loss in the mouth and gum recession, is disturbed by cigarette smoke and the plaque can then do its damage. The support tissues of the teeth are destroyed to the point of the loss of teeth when periodontal health is affected by smoking.

It has been shown that smokers who undergo oral surgery, tooth extraction or periodontal scaling are more prone to dry socket and have a much slower rate of healing in their mouths than do those who are non-smokers. Perhaps the saying, "Watch Your Mouth", is a good reminder for those who choose to smoke.