The dangers of smoking are, by now, well known. While many people continue to smoke in spite of knowing the effects of tobacco on their health, approximately two-million people in the United States choose to quit each year. Unfortunately, one thing that many current and former smokers have in common is that their teeth have been stained through years of tobacco consumption.
Thankfully, professional teeth whitening treatments can restore tobacco-stained teeth to their original luminous state. At Smiles by Myles, the cosmetic dentistry practice of Wayne Myles, DDS, in Reston, tooth stains and the effects of smoking are discussed with patients who consume tobacco during confidential, one-on-one consultations. While teeth whitening can dramatically reduce or altogether eliminate extrinsic tooth stains caused by tobacco, these stains are likely to reappear if a patient continues to smoke after treatment. The surest way to avoid re-staining the teeth – and to ensure a lifetime of good oral and general health – is to quit smoking.
Understanding Tobacco Stains
There are two substances in tobacco that cause the teeth to become stained: nicotine and tar. Although nicotine is actually colorless, it becomes yellowish in hue when it combines with oxygen molecules. Tar, on the other hand, is the naturally dark residue that results from smoking tobacco. It is not, as is popularly believed, the same as the tar used to pave roads; however, in terms of its effects on teeth, it may as well be.
While tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it also contains microscopic pores. When people smoke, some of the nicotine and tar drawn into the mouth settles into these pores. Over time, as nicotine and tar continue to build up in the pores, the teeth become visibly discolored. The resulting stains are generally yellowish or brownish in hue and are generally extrinsic, meaning that they affect only the superficial layer of the teeth. Tobacco stains do not generally penetrate beneath the enamel into the underlying layer of dentin.
Removing Tobacco Stains
In general, tobacco stains tend to respond well to professional teeth whitening treatments. The hydrogen peroxide based gel used in teeth whitening is highly effective at tackling extrinsic stains, particularly those that are yellowish or brownish (as opposed to bluish or greyish) in hue. As a result, most people who suffer from tobacco stains emerge from teeth whitening treatment with dramatically whiter, more radiant and healthy-looking teeth.
However, the damage that smoking can cause to a person’s oral health is not merely cosmetic. There is a connection between smoking and numerous oral health issues, including oral cancer, periodontal disease, bad breath, and tooth decay. If you are a former smoker, it is important that you undergo a thorough oral health screening in addition to teeth whitening treatment. If you are a current smoker, the best thing you can possibly do is stop.
If you would like to learn more about the effects of smoking on the teeth, or you wish to schedule your initial consultation with Dr. Wayne Miles, we encourage you to contact Smiles by Myles today.