image012It is well-known that smoking is detrimental for your oral health, but most people do not understand why. Smoking interferes with the immune system in the oral cavity; making it more susceptible to infection and disturbing the attachment of teeth and soft tissue in the mouth. It also inhibits blood flow in the oral cavity, leading to delayed healing. Common oral side effects of smoking include bad breath, stained teeth, discoloured fillings and a dulled sense of taste. Dental decay and tooth loss are also more frequent in smokers as cigarettes prevent saliva flow that protects teeth from plaque build-up. More serious and sometimes unseen oral side effects include gum disease and soft tissue lesions that can develop into oral cancer. There is no “safe” level of smoking and your dentist can diagnosis and manage the conditions related to smoking, or refer to you a specialist if required. Quitting smoking can be very challenging due to the addictive ingredients. Ways to reduce smoking include talking to your dentist or GP about developing smoking cessation strategies. It’s important to anticipate smoking triggers and prepare plans to avoid these situations. Reward yourself for reaching small goals, for example going out for dinner at your favourite restaurant to celebrate a smoke-free week. Chewing sugar-free gum and drinking lots of water will help protect your oral health.