If you are a smoker, that last thing you want to hear when an emergency strikes is that it’s time to kick the habit. In fact, studies show smokers use this vice to manage their pain with an increase in cigarette usage when pain increases. Most are aware of the health risks associated with smoking such as heart attacks (or heart disease), lung cancer, and even dangers with secondhand smoke. Although less well known, there are a number of reasons why at least a temporary break will help with a number of dental emergencies.
Smoking and Dental Emergencies
The most common dental emergencies are toothaches. Toothaches occur for a number of reasons but decay usually plays a factor. Smokers are more prone to the accumulation of plaque and dental decay. Teeth come into contact first with the nicotine, tar, and other harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. The substances chip away at your teeth’s defenses by weakening your enamel and leaving them more susceptible to decay than that of non-smoker’s.
Emergencies Due To Infection
To make matters worse, smoking decreases the body’s immune system response to infection. When you smoke, your immune system constantly fights against the inflammation and damage caused by tobacco products. This can make you prone to gum disease. As bacteria from decay accumulates on your teeth, gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis) develops causing gums to become red, inflamed, and eventually recede (pull away from the teeth). Gum disease can result in tooth loss.
Dental abscesses, another common dental emergency, are also exacerbated by smoking. With abscesses, a pocket of pus develops at the root of the tooth and caused by infection. With smoking, your body is less able to fight this infection. Abscesses often result in an extraction or root canal.
Delta Dental reports that smokers are twice as likely to have root canals. If a root canal is performed, it is helpful to stop smoking to decrease the amount of time necessary for the infection to dissipate.
With extractions, it is important to cease smoking afterward. Those who don’t are likely to develop the dental problem known as a dry socket, due to the sucking action associated with cigarette smoking. The wound heals more slowly as well because less is less oxygen in the body to help. This applies to other injuries, including a broken or chipped tooth, trying to save a tooth that has been knocked out of its socket, and soft-tissue injuries. All of these need a good blood supply to heal properly. A good rule of thumb to remember is when injured, try to avoid smoking afterward.
While smoking is used to deal with pain, it actually has the opposite effect. In addition to putting off dealing with the root cause of the pain, studies show smokers perceive pain more intensely. This means tobacco has an effect on the central nervous system, increasing sensations and perceptions of pain. Because of this, smokers respond less to pain medications when prescribed.
There are several at home pain management strategies. Applying a cold compress to a swollen jaw will reduce inflammation. Rinsing the mouth with warm water mixed with salt will help with infections. Clove oil is also a natural analgesic and can help to manage pain. Stay away from over-the-counter products that promise to help damage caused by smoking. These harsh products often do more harm than good.
While these will help temporarily, the best help is to call your dentist at the first sign of trouble. Emergency Dental specializes in emergency dental care. Our evening and weekend hours make it convenient to get the help you need when you need it.
The American Cancer Society reports that 90% of people in the United States with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. Some may think that vaping can eliminate some of these problems. While e-cigarettes decrease undesirable side effects like bad breath and tooth staining, studies have found that if you choose a variety that has a nicotine cartridge it can lead to similar immune system suppression.
When you decide to kick the habit for good, there are great resources out there at Smokefreeamerica.gov that will help. But if you aren’t ready to kick the habit to the curve for good, when dealing with a dental emergency, a break from smoking is in order. Call Emergency Dental to deal with the problem rather than putting off the pain by lighting up.
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Dr. Roberto Monteagudo is an expert in advanced dentistry, full mouth reconstruction, neuromuscular dentistry and sedation dentistry. He attended the Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dental Studies from 1999 to 2006 and graduated from Marquette University, School of Dentistry in 1990. Dr. Monteagudo speaks frequently throughout the Wisconsin area on advancements in dentistry and patient education. Dr. Roberto Monteagudo lives in Milwaukee with his lovely wife, Gina, and their seven children whom they make a top priority. He also enjoys outdoor activities and is deeply committed to giving back to his community through charitable events. His warmth and caring combined with his commitment to patient comfort through sedation dentistry, leading edge, gentle, and non-invasive technologies is the reason that his patients travel long distances to see him.
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