Smoking and Your Health

Smoking and Your Health

Graphic of sign warning of Cancer Risks

Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of many oral complications. People who smoke or chew tobacco are more likely to develop gum disease, tooth loss, and cancer.  Though the addictive qualities of nicotine make it difficult to ditch the habit, it is imperative to your overall health to do so.

How Can I Avoid Oral Cancer?

There are two distinct pathways through which most people contract oral cancer.  One is through the use of tobacco and alcohol, and the other is through exposure to the HPV16 virus (human papilloma virus version 16).  HPV is now the leading cause of oral cancer in the US, and is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers in women.

If oral cancer is detected early (in stages one or two), the survival rate is 80% to 90%!  So make an appointment with your general dentist or with an oral surgeon today.  Contact us for an appointment ASAP!

Why is Tobacco Harmful to My Health?

  • Vasoconstriction.  Nicotine in tobacco causes narrowing of the blood vessels, or vasoconstriction, which is the main cause of many oral problems.  An inadequate amount of blood supply to the gums due to narrowed blood vessels leads to delayed healing in the mouth.  This lack of blood supply prevents warning signs, like bleeding of the gums, from occurring.
  • Toxicity.  Tobacco use releases toxins in the body that disrupt normal gum cell function. Smokers are more susceptible to oral infections like periodontal disease.
  • Plaque and Tartar.  Those that smoke and chew tobacco produce more plaque and tartar.  As a result, tobacco users are more likely to develop gum disease and bone and tooth loss.
  • Gum irritation.  Tobacco use, especially chewing tobacco, causes an inability of the gums to appropriately attach to teeth, and eventually the gums recede from the teeth.  Receding gums expose teeth to increased likelihood of decay and loss.
  • Cancer.  Oral cancer, cancer of the throat, and cancer of the esophagus are all linked to chemicals introduced to body by tobacco use – both smoking and chewing of the drug. The cancers associated with tobacco use are often deadly.

Graphic showing poisons associated with cigarette smoking

If you would like more information on tobacco, smoking, or chewing and their effect on your health, please contact us.  If you have sustained oral problems as a result of tobacco use, please call Dr. Kiken, who will be able to help improve your health.

Below is a recent article from CNN regarding the latest of how tobacco usage affects the brain.

This is Your Brain on Smoking

That cigarette may be doing more damage than meets the eye. If you’ve been smoking for an extended period of time, you’re likely familiar with at least some – if not all – of the bodily symptoms associated with smoking, including but certainly not limited to: cravings, coughing, shortness of breath and changes to teeth, hair and skin. Coronary heart disease and/or lung cancer might not be far behind.

But a new study published in the journal Age & Aging concludes that smoking can damage your mind too. A consistent association was observed between smoking and lower cognitive functioning, including memory.

The bottom line: Smoking and long-term high blood pressure appear to increase the risk of cognitive decline.

How Researchers Did It

Researchers at Kings College London set out to explore the association between cardiovascular and stroke risk and cognitive decline in adults over the age of 50. Working with a nationally representative sample of nearly 9,000 participants, the study’s authors analyzed data on smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body mass index (BMI).

At four- and eight-year follow-up appointments, participants’ cognitive performance was measured. To test their memories, researchers taught the participants 10 unrelated words, then gauged both their immediate and delayed recall capabilities. Subjects were also asked to name as many animals as they could in one minute, a test designed to measure verbal fluency. Lastly, the subjects were asked to cross through specified letters in a series (letter cancellation), to measure attention, mental speed and visual scanning.

What They Found

The study concludes that smoking has the most consistent impact on hastening aging in the brain. Those with high BMI, blood pressure, or stroke risk scores performed worse on cognitive tasks, but those results varied more widely across the three objective tests.

“Cognitive decline becomes more common with aging and for an increasing number of people, interferes with daily functioning and well-being,” said Dr. Alex Dregan, lecturer in Translational Epidemiology and Public Health at Kings College London. “Some older people can become forgetful, have trouble remembering common words, or have problems organizing daily tasks more than others.”


To be clear, the researchers did not draw any conclusions as to whether a decline in brain function could lead to conditions such as dementia.

Asked for a comment, William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, responded by acknowledging the growing body of research over more than a decade – including this new study – that point toward several factors that may impact our risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, the strongest being heart health risk factors.

“These (factors) include physical inactivity, smoking and poor control of blood pressure, blood lipids and blood sugar levels,” Thies said. “Currently, the strongest data for lifestyle-based Alzheimer’s risk reduction is for physical activity.”

Dregan concurs. “We have identified a number of risk factors which could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which could be modifiable,” he said. “This offers valuable knowledge for future prevention and treatment interventions.”

“We recognize and agree that smoking has serious health consequences and causes serious diseases,” said David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA. “That’s why we think it’s…  important the FDA has oversight of the industry to conduct further research about the harm caused by tobacco use and ways to reduce that harm.”

“For those people who are concerned about the health effects of smoking,” Sylvia said, “the best thing to do is to quit.”

Quit smoking Infographic

Post by: Ben Tinker – CNN Medical News Senior Producer
Filed under: Addiction • Alzheimer’s • Brain • Cancer • Heart • Longevity • Smoking • Stroke

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