Most adults are aware that tobacco use has an effect on oral health and can increase the risks of mouth cancers and other diseases. However, many are unaware that tobacco use may also decrease the effectiveness of orthodontic treatment. Additionally, tobacco use may increase the severity of existing oral issues, making orthodontic treatment more difficult and time consuming.
Tobacco use is one of the biggest factors in gum disease. Cigarette smoke deposits many different chemicals onto the teeth, which may cause build-up and make existing build-up harder to remove. Over time, this build-up may cause gum disease. One of the common symptoms of gum disease is bleeding gums, but this symptom may be prevented by vaso-constriction, preventing diagnosis of gum disease. Vaso-constriction occurs when the blood vessels in the gums constrict and prevent the inflammation that helps to alert dentists to the dangerous condition.
For orthodontic procedures to be successful, the teeth must move in a normal and predictable fashion. For the teeth to move properly, the gums and tissue of the mouth must be healthy. Regular use of tobacco products undermines the health of these tissues. This may delay the amount of time that teeth take to move, making it necessary for patients to wear braces or other orthodontic devices for a longer period of time than normal.
Tobacco use can cause complications with the body’s natural healing processes. The chemicals present in tobacco products impair the body’s ability to fight against bacteria in the mouth and can reduce the number of white blood vessels sent to combat toxins. For individuals that require tooth extractions, surgery, or other medical procedures that require the body to heal prior to orthodontic treatment, these healing problems can cause a delay in treatment.
Smokers must spend extra time on tooth care in order to prevent a yellowed appearance. When wearing braces, it may be more difficult to remove the chemicals that cause this discoloration from the areas of the teeth that are hidden by the braces. After braces are removed, the areas that were covered by the braces may appear yellowed or white. White spots are caused by demineralization of the teeth.
Smoking may also cause cavities and receding gums. These complications may have an effect on the appearance of the teeth and overall oral health. When cavities form during orthodontic treatment, it may be necessary to have cavities filled, adding to the costs and time spent on tooth care.