Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quitting Smoking: A dental perspective

Last month, I had the opportunity to listen to a seminar given by Dr. Alan Blum (a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Alabama). Dr. Blum is a medical doctor, and an anti-smoking advocate. In his presentation, Dr. Blum provided many surprising tips and examples about quitting smoking, and the tobacco companies' clever ways to encourage smoking. For instance, it's believed that a pack of cigarettes costs approximately $0.25 to produce, yet they're sold for $4-6 per pack. That is an incredible profit margin for the tobacco companies (and the government takes a large portion in the form of cigarette taxes!). The tobacco companies provide many different products (those for women, those for men, those with low tar, those with filters), however ultimately all of the products are the same in terms of your health. They all contain the addictive nicotine, and they are all filled with harmful poisons and carcinogens (the filter accomplishes nothing in preventing the inhalation of harmful substances).

If you are a smoker, I, and the other members of the medical community are going to encourage you to quit. We care about your health, and smoking is not a part of a healthy life. I ALWAYS discuss smoking with my patients, and I provide educational materials, discuss prescription medications to assist in quitting, and provide follow-up on their progress. The effects of cigarette smoke due to the chemical carcinogens, radioactive carcinogens and nicotine, can cause disease of the heart and lungs, periodontal disease, cancers of the throat and mouth and pancreatic cancer. The overall life expectancy of smokers is 10-18 years less than nonsmokers. Smoking and exposure to smoke results in 443,000 premature deaths annually!

If you need more motivation to try and stop smoking, consider the educational information I use from

Within 24 hours of quitting smoking, your blood pressure and pulse rate may begin to drop. After 2 to 12 weeks, your lung function and circulation can increase. After a year, your risk of coronary heart disease drops to 50% that of a habitual smoker. After 10 years of being smoke-free, your risk of lung cancer is 50% that of a smoker. These are all amazing health benefits in and of themselves! In addition, your taste and smell may improve, you won't stink like smoke, and you can feel more in control of your life, not being addicted to cigarettes.

How long does it take to smoke a cigarette? Approximately 4-5 minutes. Multiply that by the amount of cigarettes you smoke in a day, and you can be saving hours of life every week that you can invest in other activities. For instance, if you smoke 12 cigarettes per day, at 5 minutes each, you've wasted 1 waking hour of your day smoking. That's approximately 365 hours per year! Imagine what else you could be doing in that time!

In this economy, everyone's looking to save some money. The price of the average pack of cigarettes can be $4-6 bucks. Multiply the packs you smoke per week, times the cost, and you may be shocked to find the amount of your hard-earned dollars you've spent. Let's say a pack costs $5, and you smoke 1 pack per day. This is $35 per week and nearly $2000 per year! In a month, you'd save enough money to buy a top of the line iPod, a decent high-definition TV within 6 months, and enough money to go on an awesome luxurious vacation in just one year!

I referred to the dental perspective because the dental school where I received my degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo, has a unique program where the dental students are taught a smoking cessation protocol. Dr. Othman Shibly developed this program, and he and other faculty members including Dr. Eric Schroeder, are responsible for teaching the students to implement it. Dr. Shibly says, "These efforts were based also on our goal of making dental treatment a successful long-term benefit for our patients by addressing all risk factors associated with oral disease," he said. "Research has shown that there is no match for smoking in causing harm to oral health." Dr. Shibly, a periodontist, and personal friend, is an asset to the Dental School, and the community, for his continued support of tobacco cessation.

The most serious condition in your mouth is oral cancer, which is correlated to the use of tobacco products (cigarettes, pipes, cigars and smokeless tobacco). If you are a smoker, don't be surprised if your teeth are affected not just with staining, but also the inflammatory disease periodontitis (half of cases are attributed to smoking!). Essentially, the bone sockets holding the teeth in place erode away due to the smoking.

If you are a smoker, or user of tobacco products, please consider talking to your doctor or dentist about a plan to quit. If you are a non-smoker who is concerned about an tobacco-addicted loved one, please encourage them to do the same. There's no better time to stop smoking than RIGHT NOW!