As your family dental care provider in the Walla Walla Valley, patients of Dr. Patty Martin should know that no habit has a worse impact on your long-term oral health than smoking. In addition to increasing your risk of oral cancers, smoking also significantly raises your risk of gum disease and tooth decay, while also causing persistent bad breath and tooth discoloration.
One of the primary theories about why smoking contributes to such poor oral health is that the habit actually increases the amount of harmful oral bacteria found in the mouth. Harmful oral bacteria use the sugars we consume to produce substances that slowly erode away tooth enamel. The more harmful bacteria, the more secretions of acids are made that can quickly ruin the long-term health of your teeth. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry found the link between smoking and biofilm formation in a variety of human pathogens, including Streptococcus mutans, a strain of bacteria believed to contribute to the development of gum disease.
What is a Biofilm?
Think of biofilm like a protective bubble that holds together substances that threaten your long-term oral health. By now you’ve probably heard of plaque and how harmful it is to your teeth and gums. Plaque is a type of biofilm. It’s a mixture of harmful oral bacteria like Streptococcus mutans and food particles that linger in the mouth after eating. Biofilms like plaque stick to the surface of your teeth where they contribute to the development of inflammation and decay. Both of which increase your risk of cavities and gum disease.
In this latest study, researchers examined the mechanisms behind how smoking increases biofilm formation and what risks they raise for the long-term health of smokers.
While oral plaque is one of the most common types of biofilm that develop in the body, smoking also promotes the development of biofilm in other parts of the body – such as your heart – leading to a number of diseases. Once bacteria establishes itself in a biofilm, it can be very difficult to remove from the body as biofilms provide a physical barrier that protects the bacteria from the body’s natural immune response. Biofilm protects harmful bacteria, shielding it from antibodies and allowing it to remain in the body as a persistent source of possible infection.
As researchers continue to explore possible connections between biofilms and the diseases they promote, the need to prevent biofilm formation in the mouth means that patients must make a serious commitment to their oral health, especially if a smoker.
How to Fight Biofilm Development:
By far the most successful way to prevent biofilm buildup is to stop smoking. Of course, that can be easier said than done. If quitting isn’t an option or if you want to better protect your health from biofilms even if you don’t smoke, regular brushing and flossing rank as your best options.
Practicing quality oral hygiene helps to remove harmful bacteria in the mouth and removes biofilm from the surface of your teeth. Regular checkups and cleanings with the team at Stone Creek Dental Care in Walla Walla will also go a long way towards protecting your oral health. Regular exams will allow Dr. Martin to examine your teeth for any signs of decay while cleanings will provide our staff of gentle hygienists with the opportunity to remove plaque deposits from the surface of your teeth. Give us a call today to get on the books at 509-525-5902.