Approximately 9 million adults in the UK smoke cigarettes which equates to 19% of men and 15% of women. Of these, two-thirds started smoking before the age of 18.

Despite these somewhat alarming figures, smoking rates across the United Kingdom continue to fall, showing a sharp decline since 2010 among younger people, In 2016, 15.8% of all adults smoked, down from 17.2% in 2015 according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

During 2014/2015 there were 1.7 million hospital admissions in the UK that could be contributed to smoking-related illnesses. While it is widely known that smoking can have a large number of adverse health effects which include respiratory problems and cancer, the effects on the oral health of a smoker are often disregarded. A general slack approach to oral hygiene often leads to serious problems remaining untreated until it is too late. While it is recommended to not start smoking in the first place, a number of effective methods exist to help you stop smoking before your health is compromised too severely.

Oral health problems caused by smoking

Smoking can cause a variety of severe problems for teeth and oral structures with the problem being worsened when proper health care is not adhered to. Gum disease is one of the most common oral problems smokers are exposed to with them being four times more at risk than non-smokers. People who smoke are at an increased risk for developing leukoplakia that can lead to oral, throat and lung cancer. It can cause the salivary glands to become inflamed, contributing to the deterioration of the oral bone structure. Smokers are also known to take longer to recover from dental procedures such as dental implants, periodontal treatments and tooth extractions than non-smokers. After tooth extractions regular smokers commonly suffer from dry sockets which cause excruciating pain in the affected areas due to the nerve endings and bone being exposed.

Hygiene tips to improve dental health

To quit smoking is by far the most effective way to ensure better oral and overall health. A few guidelines exist for those who battle to quit or are still in the process of cutting down on their smoking.   Considering all the complications and risks of smoking on oral health it is imperative that smokers do not skip their regular check-ups with their dentists.  During these visits the dentist will check for signs of developing gum disease as well as tooth decay and oral cancers. While everyone should visit their dentists at least twice a year it is recommended that smokers do so more regularly.

Through regular visits to the dentist, smokers can also benefit from professional cleanings. A proper oral hygiene plan is of great importance to everyone, especially smokers, who should brush, floss and use a tongue cleaner and mouthwash at least twice a day. Brushing with the correct toothbrush is something which is often overlooked Toothbrush bristles should be stiff and strong enough to tackle the tough stains caused by the tar in tobacco. It should also be able to reach all areas of the mouth. Many leading toothpaste brands have products designed specifically for smokers, there are even special mouthwashes targeted just at smokers.

When to seek medical assistance

If you are a smoker it is important to check your face, mouth and neck for long-lasting sores. Any sore that persists for longer than 2 weeks could be indicative of a more serious problem and should be seen to by a medical professional. Also check for recurring bleeding as well as lesions, swelling and lumps inside the mouth and seek medical advice if any of these are noted.  Red, white or dark patches on the inside of the mouth and under the tongue that last more than 14 days should be brought to the attention of a dentist as should any lumps on the lips and gums.

Smoking is without a doubt one of the hardest habits to try break but also the one you will benefit the most from by quitting.  You will not only save substantial amounts of money but will enjoy a great improvement in your overall health and well-being as well.