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How Some Addictive Habits Can Affect Your Teeth

Sometimes tooth decay and gum disease come because of poor dental care or because of trauma to the mouth. However, many people experience decreasing gum and tooth health because of other lifestyle habits. Sometimes, moderating or leaving these choices behind can be the key to restoring your dental health.

Smoking, using other forms of tobacco, drinking excessive alcohol, and even relying too much on caffeinated beverages can have a negative effect on your teeth. Learn about how each of these habits can cause harm and how quitting can help.

Smoking and Tobacco Use

Smoking is one of the key factors that contributes to gum disease, a condition that affects nearly half of all adults in the United States. Smoking increases your risk for gum disease for several reasons.

First, you have increased buildup of bacteria plaque if you smoke. People who smoke are more likely to experience tooth decay and inflammation because of increased bacteria present in the mouth.

Smoking also restricts blood flow. Nicotine is a vasodilator, which means it constricts the blood flow through vascular rich areas in your mouth. Your body needs a rich blood supply to support the growth and repair of healthy gum tissue. Your body is not as able to fight infection from bacteria, which accelerates the progression of disease.

Also, you heal less quickly after medical treatments if you smoke. Your gums naturally heal quickly, but because of reduced blood flow, healing is slowed. This makes getting surgical gum repairs and regular dental treatments more painful and more risky for people who smoke.

Smoking causes discoloration of the teeth that cannot be resolved with daily brushing and flossing. Yellow and brown staining on your teeth can only be solved with more frequent dental cleanings. If you do smoke, you should make professional dental cleaning a high priority so you can catch and treat problems early and avoid stains.

Speak with your dentist about methods for quitting for the sake of your tooth health. If you think that you can simply switch to a smoke-free option instead, know that this isn’t risk-free either. People who chew tobacco put themselves at high risk for oral cancers. The cancer can spread quickly because your mouth has so many small blood vessels. Cancer in the mouth can affect gum tissue and even the bone supporting your teeth. Tooth loss is also a common side effect.


Moderation in alcohol consumption is important for your dental health. Most forms of alcohol, including beer, wine, and cocktails, have high acid and sugar content. Regular, prolonged drinking increases tooth decay.

Alcohol also decreases the amount of saliva present in your mouth. Saliva helps to prevent bacteria from settling on your teeth and also helps to reduce the harmful effects of acid on your enamel. With a dry mouth from regular alcohol consumption, decay progresses much more quickly.

Unfortunately, alcohol also irritates the gum tissue, causing it to pull away from the teeth. Once the gum tissue pulls away, bacteria can form pockets of infection in and around the gums, and the tissue degrades further.

Caffeinated Drinks

Many people depend on caffeinated drinks to help get through the day. Coffee and tea can sometimes cause staining, and frequent additions of sugar and milk to these drinks can give bacteria a feast that isn't brushed away because people often sip on these drinks over the course of an hour or longer.

To avoid stains and increased decay risk, drink your coffee or tea quickly and rinse out your mouth with water. Ideally, you should be able to brush your teeth after consuming these beverages.

More troubling is the consumption of soda. Soda has a high acid and sugar content and can erode enamel more quickly. If you do rely on caffeine for a boost during the day, consider using a pill form alertness aid, and switch to sugar-free soda varieties.

For more information, contact us at Signature Smiles Family Dentistry.