Tobacco Products and Your Teen’s Dental Health
Posted on 04/27/2023

Teenagers can be vulnerable to many negative habits, and one of the most harmful is tobacco use. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are popular among teenagers, who often do not understand the long-term effects they can have on their overall health.  The dangers of tobacco use are well known and have been studied extensively. E-cigarettes (aka as vaping) are even more commonly used among youth than tobacco, but additional research is needed to help us understand the long-term effects. What we do know is that vaping is not necessarily a safer alternative to tobacco, especially in young people. Like tobacco, vape aerosol contains harmful ingredients including nicotine, various carcinogens and heavy metals. Teenagers are at a high risk of becoming addicted to nicotine, and exposure is particularly harmful to development of the young brain which continues into the mid 20’s.

 Teenagers who use tobacco products are at risk of serious long-term health issues, including heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory problems, as well as various negative dental health effects. Tobacco products contain harmful chemicals that damage the teeth and gums and can lead to serious oral health issues in the future.  The negative effects of tobacco use on dental health include bad breath, tooth discoloration, delayed healing, gum disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer.  Bad breath is unpleasant and embarrassing for those affected. The smell of tobacco smoke can linger in the mouth, making it difficult to get rid of the odor even with brushing and mouthwash. The tar in tobacco can stain the enamel of the teeth, leading to permanent yellow or brown discolorations.  Smoking and vaping can also slow down the healing process after dental procedures. This is because the nicotine in tobacco products constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the affected area. This can delay the healing of the gums and bone tissue after procedures such as tooth extractions or dental implants.  The fluid in e-cigarettes, which can include propylene glycol, benzene, formaldehyde and other chemicals, only increases the risks of healing problems.  The toxins in tobacco products can also irritate the gums and lead to inflammation and infection, or gum disease.  Smoking and vaping also increase the risk of tooth decay by reducing the production of saliva and thus drying out the mouth. Saliva helps to neutralize acids in the mouth and wash away harmful bacteria. Without enough saliva, bacteria can multiply and cause cavities making teeth more vulnerable to decay and eventual tooth loss.  Perhaps the most serious negative effect of tobacco on oral health is the risk of oral cancer. Tobacco contains over 4,000 chemicals of which more than 70 are known to cause, initiate or promote cancer and are called carcinogens. Tobacco use is a leading cause of oral cancer, and according to the American Cancer Society, more than 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Smoking and using smokeless tobacco products significantly increase the risk of oral cancer, which can be life-threatening.

In conclusion, tobacco product use is harmful to dental health, and it's crucial for teenagers to avoid smoking or vaping. Parents and teachers can play a critical role in educating teenagers about the dangers of tobacco use and encourage them to adopt healthy habits. Dentists can also provide counseling and support to help teenagers quit smoking or vaping. By taking proactive steps to maintain good dental health, teenagers can avoid serious oral health issues and enjoy a brighter, healthier future.  Please visit our website at www.collegevilleorthodontics for more information about your teenager’s dental health or to schedule an appointment call us at Orthodontic Associates of Collegeville (610) 409-9880.