Almost everyone today knows – tobacco-use is detrimental for one’s overall health and wellbeing; and it contributes to increasing the risk of developing numerous critical cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, and many cancers. Yet, most of us are not aware how the habit of tobacco consumption can prove to be equally harmful for one’s teeth, gums and oral health at large!
Yes, habitual tobacco-users – including smokers and those who chew tobacco – are prone to a variety of oral health issues, beginning usually with teeth discolouration. As the various pigments and chemicals present in tobacco products gradually bring about staining or discoloration over time with consistent tobacco use, it could increasingly lead to more yellowish or brownish appearance of teeth.
Smoking and Chewing Tobacco: How Do They Stain Teeth
Smoking cigarettes, beedis, cigars, etc. exposes our teeth to nicotine and tar – both of which get easily absorbed into the pores in one’s teeth. While nicotine itself is colourless, upon reacting with oxygen, it turns yellow. Studies have shown that regular inhaling of nicotine-rich smoke, in the long run, reduces salivary secretion in our mouth. This in turn increases the chances of our teeth getting stained, as saliva production is directly related to our mouth's natural ability to cleanse and protect teeth. And for the same reason, long-time smokers are likely to experience tooth decay and tooth loss.
However, tar is believed to be the one of the most-notorious teeth staining culprits in tobacco products. It is brown in colour and ‘stickier’ than nicotine. Repeated exposure to tar leads to the accumulation of dark, sticky deposits on the teeth. Besides, there are also hundreds of other toxic substances present in tobacco smoke, many of which undergo chemical reactions to produce pigments that get embedded onto the teeth enamel, causing significant levels of discoloration over time.
On the other hand, chewing tobacco – which accounts for nearly one-third of the overall tobacco consumption in India – is a bigger offender when it comes to teeth staining. Smokeless tobacco products such as gutkha, pan masala, khaini, zarda, etc., that are made using processed tobacco leaves, have the potential to do more damage, mainly because they come in direct contact with the teeth.
Also, with such (chewed tobacco) products, the user has a prolonged exposure to the common staining agents like nicotine, tar and resins, besides dark-brown tannins and additives. By being inside the mouth for a longer period, the tobacco gets mixed with saliva to create a dark-brownish liquid, which is highly staining in nature. Adding further to the gravity of the problem, the abrasive chewing act itself involves pressing and grinding the coarse tobacco against one’s teeth – a process that can weaken the enamel and thus make the chewers’ teeth more susceptible to staining.
Getting Rid of Tobacco Stains: What Needs to Be Done
If you are concerned about tobacco-induced stains affecting your teeth (and don’t want it to happen in the future), the best thing to do, of course, is to quit smoking and/or chewing tobacco altogether. Once you quit, the staining caused by tobacco usually fades away on its own over time. However, after several years of smoking or chewing, quitting tobacco is too hard for many individuals. And even if they take up the resolve to give up tobacco consumption, it could take multiple attempts to succeed in quitting.
So, for those who still continue to consume tobacco in any form, focusing consistently on maintaining an optimal oral hygiene is non-negotiable to keep teeth staining at bay. In doing so, brushing and flossing, at least twice every day, are a must for them. Also, immediately after one smokes/chews, it is advisable to rinse their mouth with water or a mouthwash – a practice that can wash away the usual stain-inducing agents in tobacco.
Notably, when it comes to dealing with tobacco-related teeth stains, focusing on stain-removal strategies are as important as preventive strategies. Below we are sharing a few ways to effectively remove and eliminate tobacco stains:
- Embrace DIY at-home teeth whitening treatments such as brushing with baking soda paste, which helps in removing extrinsic stains from the outside of your teeth. But, only use this method up to a couple of times per week, as overdoing it/doing it too frequently can damage tooth enamel. Read this article to find out about a few more safe and natural strategies for whitening your teeth at home.
- Include apples, carrots, and other crunchy fruits and vegetables in your diet that are able to reduce stains, boost saliva production and whiten teeth naturally.
- For removing stubborn surface stains that are impossible to get rid of with brushing, consider using over-the-counter products such as whitening toothpastes, gels and strips.
- On the other hand, for removing deep teeth stains caused due to smoking or tobacco-chewing from the comfort of your home, teeth whitening kits usually work best. For instance, Fang’s Teeth Whitening System, equipped with advanced LED light technology, can help you in getting professional-level stain-removal results without even visiting the dentist!
- Lastly but most importantly, as a tobacco user, take your oral health seriously. Make sure that you are visiting your dentist at regular intervals, and more frequently than your non-smoker friend – ideally once in every 4 months. At the same time, try to get professional teeth cleanings (including scaling/polishing) scheduled twice a year (unless otherwise advised by your dentist, of course) — as this is one of the easiest and quickest ways to improve the appearance of your stained teeth. Alternatively, your dentist may also suggest you to go for dental bleaching or veneer, if the intensity of your staining is severe.
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