People who use tobacco products face the inevitable challenge of yellowing and discolored teeth. Not only do these stains affect your smile and self-confidence, but they can also have major negative effects on your oral health.
In this article, we’ll discuss what tobacco products do to your teeth, how to effectively whiten nicotine-stained teeth, and tips for reducing these types of stains in the future.
What do tobacco products do to your dental health?
Nicotine products, such as cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, smokeless and dissolvable tobacco, and electronic cigarettes, contain heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
The tobacco plant contains high levels of nicotine, the addictive component that turns brown when exposed to oxygen. When tobacco leaves are smoked, it produces carbon monoxide and tar, a sticky substance that is deposited into the lungs when the smoke is inhaled.
The combination of nicotine, tobacco smoke, tar, and carbon monoxide are known to cause a wide range of general health and dental problems. With respect to oral health alone, these side effects include:
- Tooth discoloration: Tobacco products leave noticeable stains on the surface of your teeth. Being that tooth enamel is porous, nicotine and tar easily penetrate through its microscopic pores. Depending on how often and how long you’ve been using these substances, you can expect your teeth to turn yellow or brown.
- Smoker’s breath: Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be a common and persistent issue for individuals who use tobacco products. This is due to a combination of factors, including the chemical compounds that adhere to the mouth when using those substances, bacteria overgrowth as a result of dry mouth, inflamed and wounded gums, and tooth decay.
- Tooth decay: The chemicals in tobacco products weaken the enamel of your teeth. Enamel is the protective outer layer that shields your teeth from damage and decay. As it erodes, your teeth become more susceptible to cavities and decay. This can result in the need for fillings, crowns, or extractions.
- Prolonged wound healing: Smoking reduces the flow of oxygen in the mouth because it constricts the blood vessels. This slows down the process of healing after oral surgeries, tooth extractions, and implants.
- Dry mouth: Nicotine negatively impacts the salivary glands and reduces the production of watery saliva, a symptom known as dry mouth. This turns the mouth into a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
- Tartar buildup: Tobacco use encourages the formation of tartar, a hard, yellowish deposit on your teeth. Tartar not only causes staining but also makes it easier for plaque to accumulate, increasing the risk of cavities and gum disease.
- Gingivitis and periodontal disease: Gingivitis, also known as gum disease, is the irritation and infection of the gums caused by plaque buildup. In severe cases, patients with periodontal disease experience severely receding gums to the point where gaps are formed around the teeth. Periodontitis advances much faster among those who are chronic users of tobacco products.
- Tooth loss: This is a common result of periodontal disease because the gums have receded and there is bone loss in the jaw. At this point, there’s nothing to hold the tooth firmly in place. The lack of healthy gum tissue creates a major problem for those who want to get dental implants.
- Oral mucosal lesions: Mouth lesions can occur in smokers and chewers. Some of the most common ones are smoker’s melanosis, oral submucous fibrosis, and leukoplakia.
- Oral cancer: Perhaps the most alarming consequence of tobacco use is the increased risk of oral cancer. Direct exposure to carcinogens in tobacco and the irritation caused by smoking or chewing can lead to the development of cancerous lesions in the mouth, tongue, and throat. “According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, approximately 90% of people with oral cancer are tobacco users.” This is a life-threatening condition that requires aggressive treatment.
Does nicotine permanently stain your teeth?
Nicotine and tar cause extrinsic stains, meaning that they affect the surface layer of the teeth. The good news is that they are not necessarily permanent, however, the degree to which the teeth can be whitened will depend on the severity of the stains and the method used to whiten them.
Can tobacco stains be removed from teeth?
Yes! Whether you’re an occasional tobacco user or a long-term smoker, there are a few effective ways to whiten your teeth.
How to effectively whiten nicotine-stained teeth
While there are many over-the-counter and professional whitening methods available, the best treatment options for removing nicotine stains from teeth are the ones you receive at dental offices.
This is because over-the-counter products, like whitening toothpaste and strips, have very low concentrations of the active ingredient so the results may not be noticeable on long-term stains. Also, over-exposing your teeth and gums to those products can cause more damage than good.
At Kootenai Dental Group in Coeur d’Alene, ID, we offer three professional treatments to remove stubborn stains.
- At-home treatment: One of the best methods to remove tobacco stains from your teeth is with our take-home whitening kit. The whitening gel we provide you with contains a higher concentration of peroxide so that you will see instant results. We’ll make you custom dental trays that are sized to fit your teeth. This ensures that the gel comes into contact only with your teeth and not your gums, to prevent irritation.
- In-office teeth cleaning: The treatment is done in-office by a dental professional. Specialized tools are used to carefully remove hardened plaque, debris, and stains from the teeth.
- Dental veneers: In the case of severely discolored or damaged teeth, veneers may be a great solution. Veneers are thin shells made of composite resin or porcelain to cover the surface of the teeth. Dr. Delwyn Dick, DDS, Dr. Lamont Murdoch, DDS, and Dr. Miranda Anderson, DDS, are the best cosmetic dentists in Coeur d’Alene, ID. With over 25 years of experience in veneers and dental implants, they can work with you to ensure you receive the care and results you deserve.
Tips for reducing tobacco stains from teeth
- Stop using nicotine products: One of the most effective ways to prevent further staining and protect your dental health is to quit smoking or using tobacco products. By eliminating the source of nicotine and tar, you halt the staining process and significantly reduce your risk of gum disease and other oral health conditions. The results after a whitening procedure will not last if you continue to use those substances.
- Proper oral hygiene: Brush your teeth two or more times a day with a whitening toothpaste that contains a mild abrasive. Make sure to floss your teeth at least once daily to remove plaque and food debris from the spaces between your teeth. Follow your oral care routine with an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Drink more water: This will help combat dry mouth and restore the salivary glands to properly function.
- Improve your diet: Incorporate foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, into your diet. Vitamin C supports gum health and can help prevent further gum damage caused by tobacco use.
- Oil pulling: Oil pulling is a natural and non-abrasive method to clean your mouth after flossing and brushing your teeth. Swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes daily may help remove plaque and stains. Oil pulling improves oral health by reducing plaque buildup, gum infections, irritation, and bleeding.
- Regular dental care: Schedule a professional cleaning every 6 months to remove plaque and tartar buildup. Have a thorough dental check up at least once a year so the dentist can monitor your oral health and address any emerging issues promptly.
Nicotine stains on your teeth don’t have to be a forever reminder of your habits. Surface stains can be addressed with the right care, including good oral hygiene, professional teeth whitening treatments, and regular dental cleanings.
Our team of experts at Kootenai Dental Group in Coeur d’Alene, ID will be happy to help you determine the next steps to enhance the appearance of your teeth so that you can enjoy the healthy smile you deserve for years to come.
Call 208-762-8750 to schedule a consultation with us today!