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Smoking And Tooth Tartar: How Regular Dental Cleanings Can Help

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It's no secret that smoking is bad for your health, and your oral health is no exception. Many people who smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes know that their habit can damage their gums and cause gum disease.  

However, you may not be aware of the link between smoking and tooth tartar. Studies have shown that frequent smokers are significantly more likely to suffer from tartar buildup on and between their teeth. If you smoke, and can't bring yourself to quit the habit just yet, regular dental cleanings will help to minimize the damage caused by tartar buildup.

What Is Tooth Tartar?

Everyone's mouth contains millions of bacteria, no matter how good their oral hygiene may be. When these bacteria consume proteins and sugars left behind after eating and drinking, they create a sticky, acidic substance that coats the surfaces of the teeth and gums. This substance is plaque and can be removed with effective, regular brushing and flossing.

If you don't brush or floss as often as you should, or you have poor brushing or flossing techniques, plaque can be left undisturbed for long periods. Over time, these plaque deposits can harden, creating a cement-like substance known as tartar or calculus. 

Why Are Smokers More Vulnerable To Tartar?

Saliva contains a number of enzymes that destroy plaque and the bacteria that create it. While it cannot prevent plaque buildup by itself, saliva production will help to prevent plaque buildup alongside your regular brushing and flossing routine.

Smoking tobacco reduces saliva production and damages the salivary glands, leaving your mouth dry and unprotected. As a result, smokers tend to have more plaque in their mouths than nonsmokers. The relatively dry conditions also cause plaque to harden into tartar more quickly.

Why Must Tartar Be Removed?

Tartar can develop in any part of your mouth that is not cleaned regularly and effectively, including visible areas at the front of the mouth. Large, discolored tartar deposits on your front teeth can be quite unsightly and may put a big dent in your confidence. However, if you suffer from extensive tartar buildup, cosmetic issues may be the least of your worries.

Tartar deposits on teeth prevent you from cleaning the tooth enamel beneath the deposits. This leaves a tooth covered by tartar very vulnerable to tooth decay, cavities, and infections.

Tartar can also harbor bacteria that attack your gums, and may cause or worsen gum disease. Since smokers are already more likely to develop gum disease, this can quickly become a serious problem and may cause you to develop a very severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis.

How Can Dental Cleaning Prevent Tartar Buildup In Smokers?

Everyone should visit their dentist regularly to have their teeth professionally cleaned, but smokers should take special care to schedule regular appointments. Tooth tartar is far too hard and tough to be removed with a toothbrush or floss. It can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.

To remove tartar deposits, your dentist or hygienist will use a hooked, metal tool called a scaler, which can be used to scrape away hardened tartar deposits. This scaler may also be inserted underneath your gum line to remove hidden tartar, a procedure known as root planing. Don't worry—your mouth will be numbed beforehand, so both scaling and root planing are completely painless.

While regular dental cleaning will not eliminate the oral damage caused by smoking, it can significantly improve the overall oral health of smokers, and prevent complications caused by tartar deposits.  

Contact a local dental office, such as Family Dentistry Of Woodstock, to learn more.