- All types of tobacco are harmful to your oral and overall health.
- Vaping can increase your exposure to chemicals that could harm your health. Vaping could also expose you to nicotine, which is addictive.
- Your dentist can educate and inform you about the risks, and can help you stop before the impact on your health gets worse.
All types of tobacco are harmful to your oral and overall health. This includes cigarettes, cigars and chewing (or smokeless) tobacco. Besides containing nicotine, which is very addictive, tobacco can increase your risk of:
- oral cancer
- gum disease
- delayed healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery
- fewer options for dental care (e.g. smokers can be poor candidates for implants)
- bad breath
- stained teeth and tongue
- a diminished sense of taste and smell
If you chew tobacco, you put yourself at risk of cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder. You swallow some of the toxins in the juice created when you chew.
Sugar is often added to enhance the flavour of chewing tobacco. This increases the risk of tooth decay. Chewing tobacco can also contain sand and grit, which can wear down your teeth.
Vaping was once thought to be a healthier alternative to traditional smoking. But more studies are now suggesting that’s not the case. The long-term safety of vaping is not yet established. But initial data suggest vaping can increase your exposure to chemicals that could harm your health. Vaping could also expose you to nicotine, which is addictive.
Current data suggest vaping products create a variety of chemicals and metal particles inhaled by users. These toxic levels may be lower than what is in tobacco smoke. But some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. Some of these aerosols can also increase inflammation and bacteria in the mouth. This can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Vaping liquids containing propylene glycol are also known to cause dry mouth.
If you vape or are thinking of taking up the habit as an alternative to smoking, speak with your physician about it. Also, let your dentist know so they can keep an eye out for potential problems.
Visit the Health Canada site to learn more about the risks of vaping.
Whether you’re trying out marijuana for the first time or have used it for a while, you should be aware of what the now legal drug can do to your dental health. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Oral Cancer: Just like with cigarettes, marijuana smokers run the risk of developing oral cancer from both the drug itself and carcinogens in the smoke that can damage tissues in the mouth.
Dental procedures: Using cannabis can increase your risk of bleeding and can cause complications for healing after dental procedures. It can also impact the effects of anesthesia and medications needed for your procedure. Find out more about Cannabis and Dental Procedures.
Dry mouth: More than just annoying, dry mouth is a serious side effect of smoking marijuana that can lead to aggressive gum disease and cavities.
Staining: Marijuana smoke stains your enamel. It can also cause demineralization and make staining much harder to get rid of.
Munchies: We’ve all heard about people getting very hungry after smoking marijuana and the traditional go-to snacks usually aren’t celery sticks. So be sure to rinse with a few swigs of water after snacking to prevent cavities from developing. It’ll also help with the dry mouth.
Cannabis edibles: Understanding dosages is critical when it comes to marijuana-infused edibles. You also need to watch out for the sugar content in the candies, chocolate and baked goods.
If you’re new to marijuana or have used it for a long time, be sure to talk about it with your dentist. They can check your mouth and give you tips on how to prevent cavities and other problems from developing into something more painful and costly to fix.
How your dentist can help
As an expert in oral health care, your dentist is trained and skilled in detecting gum disease, signs of oral cancer and other problems in your mouth. You may be completely unaware of the impact that smoking and vaping can have on your oral health. Your dentist can educate and inform you about the risks, and can help you stop before the impact worsens.
Dentists can also suggest – and, in some cases, prescribe – tobacco cessation medication for severe withdrawal symptoms.
How to quit
Quitting is the best way to decrease your risk. Here are some resources.
- STOP on the NET is a free, online smoking cessation program offered by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Eligible participants receive a free 10-week kit containing 10 boxes of nicotine patches and five boxes of nicotine gum or lozenges, mailed directly to their address.
- Smokers’ Helpline has proven, free and personalized tools to help you quit successfully.
- Smoke Free Curious lets you imagine what a smoke-free life really looks like with tools and resources to help you quit.
- The Expand Project is an initiative to start a dialog within queer and trans communities about smoking.
- Talk Tobacco is a free confidential program offering culturally appropriate support and information about quitting smoking, vaping and commercial tobacco use to First Nations, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous communities.
- With its team of doctors, nurses, addiction therapists and social workers, CAMH’s Nicotine Dependence Clinic is ready to assist individuals who wish to quit or reduce their tobacco use.
Reduce the risk
Most oral cancers are linked to tobacco use, particularly if combined with heavy alcohol consumption.