Mouth Health

THE COMMUNICATION GAP : Tobacco and Gum Health

Dr. Swati Gupta

Being a Periodontist, I come across patients with the common complaint of bleeding gums. Most of these patients are smokers and fall in the age group of 21-70 years. They all have a very common reaction when I tell them about their poor gum health: “ I have never had pain, so why this is happening at such a young (or old ) age?”

These questions make me wonder – where are we lacking in educating the public about the harmful effects of smoking?  Is it a communication gap, or is the addiction to nicotine too difficult to get out of?

I recently had a very interesting conversation about this with a patient who has been smoking from the age of 16. She has sensitivity in her teeth for which she uses sensitive toothpaste. I was amazed by her knowledge about the harmful effects of smoking. But did that help her quit?  We all know the answer to that.

Many of us (including my patient) make dangerous health choices, convincing ourselves that we will die someday anyway. But in doing that, we ignore the effects of such a choice on our loved ones, and underestimate the suffering diseases like mouth and lung cancer bring. Seeing my patients struggle with the effects of chewing or smoking tobacco, whether its cavities or cancer,  reminds me that a few moments of stimulant effect  one achieves after smoking is never worth the pain it brings.

Remember, tobacco (in any form) is never good for you or your finances. It can cause problems like cavities, bad breath, receding of gums, and cancers of the mouth, throat and lung. These diseases drain your finances and lower your quality of life.

Tobacco harms people around you too. Everyone knows about passive smoking, and now new evidence about third hand smoke and environmental effects of smoking are coming to light too.

If you or a loved one is a nicotine addict, you can always seek the help of your dentist. Many dentists specialize in helping patients quit tobacco.

Preventing disease is always better than treating it. When it comes to smoking or chewing tobacco, it is important to be aware about the harm and not underestimate it.

 

 – Swati Gupta is a periodontist and  counselled  patients trying to quit tobacco for many years. She is now an Implant Dentistry Fellow at the University of Florida , and also the author of a book about Clinical Periodontics.

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