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South Yarra, VIC 3141

Preventative Dentistry

Oral Health & Smoking

Oral cancer accounts for around 3% of all cancers diagnosed in Australia. Mouth cancers can be very difficult to diagnose in their early stage of development without radiographs and regular check-up appointments, therefore they may go unnoticed for some time. Oral cancer can develop in all areas of the mouth including the throat, tongue, lips and salivary glands as well as other areas in the head and neck. Links have been made between oral cancers, smoking and alcohol consumption. Certain oral bacteria which convert alcohol to acetaldehyde at high rates have been linked in this process, as are several types of gene anomalies of the alcohol- and Aldehyde- Dehydrogenase enzymes. These all result in higher acetaldehyde levels leading to increased risk of carcinoma. Fifty per cent of Chinese and Japanese patients carry one of these genes and have high risk rates for development of oral and oesophageal cancers if they drink alcohol. If they do not drink or smoke the risk is virtually nil. These same genetic anomalies are also associated with increased periodontitis levels in those Japanese and Chinese subjects that drink.

In addition to oral cancer, smoking is a main cause of immuno-suppression which facilitates increases in gingivitis and periodontitis. Patients who are heavy smokers have higher rates of progression of periodontitis and are usually seen more frequently than non-smokers in an attempt to reduce the influence of the smoking habits upon their oral health. Whilst periodontitis is usually associated with certain bacteria being present in the mouth in very heavy smokers tissue destruction can occur in the absence of these bacteria.

If you are missing teeth and are a smoker, it is likely that this may preclude you from having certain types of restorative procedures such as dental implants.

Oral conditions that are associated with smoking include:

  • increase in plaque and tartar build up
  • bad breath and taste
  • gum disease resulting in tooth loss
  • an increased risk of cavities
  • cancerous and precancerous lesions in your mouth that can be difficult to detect without regular x-rays and examinations and in Leukoplakia of the skin in your mouth.

Quitting smoking will improve your oral and general health, as well as significantly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.