Smoking is well known for its negative effects on overall health, but many fail to realize how detrimental tobacco use is to the teeth and gums. Smoking, and tobacco use of any kind, increases the risk of such oral health problems as dental stains, gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and even oral cancer. Quitting smoking can help reduce risk of oral problems and improve overall health, but it can leave the teeth stained. Fortunately, teeth whitening can help lift years of stains to reveal a pearly white smile. Read on to learn more about tobacco and tooth stains in this overview from Kansas City dentist John Goodman.
How Smoking Causes Dental Stains
Over time, smoking causes the teeth to turn yellow or even yellowish brown. The main cause of dental staining for smokers is nicotine and tar. The nicotine and tar from smoking seeps into the tooth's enamel through tiny pores, leaving the teeth discolored. The tar adds a brown tinge to the teeth while the nicotine, when combined with oxygen, causes yellowing.
Preventing Tobacco Stains
Of course, the best way to prevent tobacco stains is to never start smoking in the first place, or, if you do smoke, to stop before further discoloration occurs. Other ways for smokers to reduce staining is to maintain proper oral hygiene. The teeth should be brushed at least twice a day, for a full two minutes each, and flossed at least once a day. Brushing after tobacco use can also help reduce dental staining. If you are unable to brush after each cigarette, be sure to rinse your mouth with water to help remove smoking residue. See your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings to further prevent staining and to catch oral health problems at their earliest stages. In summary, you can help prevent tobacco stains by:
- Quitting smoking
- Brushing and flossing regularly
- Brushing after tobacco use
- If unable to brush after tobacco use, rinse the mouth and teeth with water
- See your dentist for regular check-ups
Restoring Tobacco Stained Teeth
Most tobacco stained teeth can be restored to a beautiful bright white with professional treatment including teeth whitening or porcelain veneers. Even though tobacco stains are generally extrinsic, meaning they're surface stains, they can be difficult to remove. Over-the-counter whitening treatments are usually not powerful enough to sufficiently whiten the teeth. Fortunately, professional whitening treatments are much more efficient at brightening tough tobacco stains. It is important to keep in mind, whitened teeth will become yellowed again if tobacco use continues. For those with major discoloration, porcelain veneers can be applied to the front facing teeth to improve shade and overall aesthetics.
Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Goodman
You don't have to let tobacco-stained teeth cause you embarrassment. There are many cosmetic dentistry options to restore your smile and reverse the damage of long-term smoking. To find out which treatment options are right for you, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Goodman.