Of the nearly 8,000 deaths in the United States attributed to oral and pharyngeal cancer annually, about 75% are due to tobacco and heavy alcohol use. Resolving to quit smoking may be one of the most difficult challenges to undertake, but it also comes with some of the best life- and mouth-saving benefits.
A lifestyle factor that the Surgeon General calls “the single greatest avoidable cause of death,” smoking also drastically affects periodontal (gum) health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of the cases of severe gum disease in U.S adults can be attributed to cigarette smoking and the prevalence of gum disease is three times higher among smokers than nonsmokers.
Smoking is the leading cause of oral and pharyngeal cancer and using tobacco in any form – including dipping, snuff, vaping, or chewing – increases the risk of developing an oral cancer. Even if you’ve smoked for decades, you can reap nearly immediate benefits by quitting. Within 20 minutes, your heart rate drops, and within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
Within one year, your added risk for coronary heart disease will fall to half that of a smoker’s, and within 15 years, your risk is that of a nonsmoker’s. Quitting reduces many of the cosmetic effects of smoking and can even improve sensitivity to smell and taste.
There are many reasons why smoking is a health risk, but here are the top five ways that kicking butts can immediately improve your oral health:
- It significantly reduces your risk of developing oral and pharyngeal cancer
- It reduces your risk of developing periodontal disease
- It improves the color of your teeth
- It can help eliminate halitosis (bad breath)
- It can help reduce dental decay
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