For many who already know, tobacco smoking contributes to several oral and general health disorders. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of premature death world-wide and in 2000, possibly 4.9 million people died of tobacco-related illnesses. In Singapore, there are many quit smoking campaigns and legislations in place to discourage smoking, but we are still seeing an increasing trend of people smoking especially the young and the female gender.
Many smokers quote various reasons for smoking such as stress, peer pressure, to keep slim, to keep awake and many more. These smokers plunge into the habit and usually deep, because tobacco use is complicated by strong nicotine dependence. Often, the habit is difficult to kick without strong willpower and the support from friends, family and healthcare givers is important as well. The evidence is clear that tobacco smoking is a major independent risk factor for the development of oral and pharyngeal cancer and is causally related to at least 16 types of human cancers.
|CANCER SITES & ORGANS|
|Colon and REctum|
|Oral Cavity (mouth)|
Other than cancers, tobacco smoking can also directly and/or indirectly give rise to other conditions such as respiratory diseases and cardiovascular diseases. In more severe cases, tobacco smoking can induce build up of cholesterol deposits on the inner lining of blood vessels causing blockage. This is potentially fatal when blood vessels supplying vital organs such as the brain and heart itself becomes affected, leading to what is commonly known as a stroke and heart attack (cardiac arrest) respectively.
One of the additive components in tobacco cigarettes is nicotine which can affect mood and performance, giving rise to physical and psychological dependency. Cigarettes on average contain 10 mg of nicotine of which the smoker typically absorbs 10%. Nicotine facilitates the release of several brain neurotransmitters and the rewarding properties are believed to be mediated by dopamine release in the higher brain centers, similar to other psychostimulant drugs of abuse. Withdrawal symptoms are believed to the reason why tobacco users relapse in the short term.
PROPERTIES OF NICOTINE
|Good Effects||Withdrawal Symptoms|
|Sense of well being||Irritability, Impatience|
|Reduce anxiety||Anxiety, Depression|
|Maintain congnitive vigilance (stay alert & awake)||Difficulty in concentrating|
|Arousing or relaxing effects||Restlessness and difficulty in sleeping|
|Reduced appetite||Increased appetite (particularly sweet high carbohydrate foods)|
|Energetic||Teary eyes and persistent cough|
Many of the side-effects of smoking do not manifest in the early years of smoking so most smokers continued with the addictive habit until the pathologic condition has advanced to a late stage associated with morbidities. What these smokers do not know is that the second hand puff from their cigarettes can affect the people around them the same way even though they are innocently non-smokers. The short and long term effects of first and second hand tobacco smoking are listed in the table below.
HARMFUL EFFECTS OF TOBACCO SMOKING
|Short Term||Long Term|
|Cough and cold||Stroke|
|Halitosis (smokers' breath)||Lung disease (bronchitis & emphysema)|
|Increased blood pressure and pulse||Reduced heart and lung function|
|Decreased stamina||Oral changes (loose teeth, gum recession, severe periodontitis, secondary infections such as candidal, oral cancers)|
|Oral changes (bleeding gums, tobacco stains causing black teeth, dry mouth, dental caries, toothaches)||Cancers of various organs|
|Infertility and Impotence|
It certainly is not easy to take the first step to drop the cigarettes forever and we all know that it takes a lot of courage and determination with the support of friends and family. Unless you start to see the changes that have taken place, most of which are visible in the mouth, we all know it would be hard to convince you to make the resolution to quit. So, pick up the phone and make an appointment with your dentist today to witness the harmful effects of smoking to your oral health!