World No Tobacco Day: An oral perspective

About 43% of adults aged 65 or older who currently smoke cigarettes have lost all of their teeth. Photo: IANS

Another World No Tobacco Day is here, and this time with the theme 'Protect the Environment '. Tobacco is one of the major toxic substances that are detrimental to the oral cavity. The two most important dental problems related to tobacco use are oral cancer and gum disease. Tobacco use in smoked, as well as smokeless form, equally poses a risk of developing various oral problems.

Untreated tooth decay is higher in people who smoke cigarettes. Over 40% of adults aged 20 to 64 who currently smoke cigarettes have untreated tooth decay.

Adults aged 65 or older who smoke cigarettes are twice as likely to have untreated tooth decay as those who never smoked.

About 43% of adults aged 65 or older who currently smoke cigarettes have lost all of their teeth. There are certain lesions that have a chance of developing into oral cancer. That includes white or grey patches (leukoplakia) as well as red patches (erythroplakia) inside the cheek or tongue which are non-scrapable and will be painless in most cases. Gum disease in smokers also may have less prominent signs so that it may go unnoticed until teeth get loose and fall off.

This is because of low vascularity due to smoke which in turn reduces the cardinal signs such as bleeding gums or increased redness.

Things to remember:

» Abstain from tobacco products.

» Make self-examination of oral cavity daily a habit to look for non-healing ulcers or red and white patches over cheeks, lips, tongue, throat, gums, etc.

» Visit your gum specialist every three months to have a thorough examination of your gums and underlying bone.

» Practice meticulous oral hygiene.

» Eat a balanced diet rich in dietary fibre.

» Inculcate the habit of attending screening camps.

» Refrain from the smoke-filled environment as passive smoking itself is equally dangerous.

» Practice good oral hygiene using ideal toothbrushing, water flossers and interdental brushes.

» Avoid snuff dipping habit as that also predispose to oral cancer.

» Along with tobacco as areca nut also cause precancerous conditions it should be avoided too.

(Dr. Manikandan G R, Consultant Periodontist, Government Urban Dental Clinic, Thiruvananthapuram)

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