Did you know that 16.8% of adult Americans smoke cigarettes? This is significant because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers smoking to be the leading cause of preventable disease in the country. While some effects of smoking are well-known, the oral health effects may surprise you.
Gum disease is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue. It’s caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth, but smoking also plays a major role. Smokers have twice the risk of developing gum disease. This is because nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and reduced blood flow impairs your gum tissue’s ability to fight infections. Plus, this reduced blood flow makes it harder for your gums to heal from damage, so treatments for gum disease may not work as well.
Mouth dryness is another oral health problem that may affect smokers. When you inhale smoke, the tissues inside your mouth can become burned. The salivary glands can become blocked off and damaged, which will make your mouth feel dry due to a lack of saliva. Aside from being uncomfortable, a dry mouth can lead to additional conditions like mouth sores, oral fungal infections and gum disease.
Oral cancer refers to cancers that form on the roof of the mouth, tongue, gums or other tissues inside the mouth. People who smoke are a whopping six times more likely to get this type of cancer than people who don’t. This is because cigarette smoke contains more than 70 carcinogens, like arsenic and formaldehyde. When you smoke, these carcinogens can damage the DNA of the cells inside your mouth; these damaged cells can then grow abnormally and form a tumor.
Tobacco use may increase your risk of gum recession, explains the American Dental Association. Gum recession means that your gums have pulled away from your teeth; this exposes the roots. While gum recession can make your teeth look longer, this condition isn’t just cosmetic. Exposed tooth roots are sensitive, so you may feel sharp pain when you eat or drink.
Surprisingly, smoking has even been linked to an increased incidence of cavities. The American College of Prosthodontists explains that nicotine may increase the formation of biofilm (plaque) on your teeth. Plaque contains bacteria, and these bacteria feed on the sugars inside your mouth. As they feed, they make acids, and these acids eat away at your tooth enamel, leaving you with cavities.
When employees suffer the oral effects of smoking, they may need to miss work to see the dentist, and lost work days affect your productivity. For this reason, you should support employees who want to kick the habit.
A recent Gallup survey revealed that 74% of smokers want to quit, and most have tried to quit in the past. To support employees who want to quit smoking, consider offering a smoking cessation program in your workplace. To discourage employees from smoking during their shifts, create a tobacco-free policy that prohibits smoking on company property.
Smoking can have an effect on both your employees’ health and your business’s bottom line, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to help employees quit.