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How Tobacco Use Impacts Oral Health in Teenagers

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When it comes to public health crises, tobacco is unequivocally one of the most significant challenges, affecting millions of people worldwide. Among teenagers, specifically, the allure of tobacco products presents alarming consequences, particularly concerning oral health, that parents, teens, and pediatric dental professionals should be aware of. Here, Lawrenceville, GA pediatric dentist Dr. Jeni Kong discusses important aspects of teen tobacco use relating to oral health, including the various modes of tobacco use prevalent among teens, the adverse effects on oral health, and the pivotal role pediatric dentists can play in combating this increasingly concerning issue.

How are teens using tobacco today?

While many people think of cigarettes as the go-to for smoking, modern teenagers often engage in tobacco consumption through a variety of other methods, including smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as using smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco and snuff. Additionally, the emergence of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and vaping have gained popularity among teens and adolescents, further exacerbating the spread of nicotine addiction in younger populations.

How does tobacco use affect oral health in teenagers?

There is no question that tobacco use is highly detrimental for overall health and wellness, often leading to a host of health problems like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and others. Tobacco use also wreaks havoc on oral health specifically, leading to myriad detrimental effects. Smoking cigarettes or cigars, for instance, significantly increases the risk of a number of conditions and complications, including:

  • Oral cancer
  • Periodontal diseases
  • Compromised wound healing
  • Reduced senses of taste and smell

Smokeless tobacco products, on the other hand, can contribute to oral cancers, staining of teeth, and periodontal issues. In teenagers, this is particularly concerning, as starting tobacco use at a young age can elevate their long-term risk level for oral and dental complications, including oral cancer.

Is secondhand smoke bad for oral health?

In addition to direct consumption of tobacco and nicotine, exposure to secondhand smoke poses critical risks to oral health — especially among children and adolescents. Inhalation of environmental tobacco smoke is shown to increase the likelihood of developing respiratory infections, middle ear infections, asthma, and even dental caries. Furthermore, prenatal exposure to secondhand smoke can result in cognitive deficits and other developmental abnormalities in children.

How can pediatric dentists help the teenage tobacco crisis?

Pediatric dentists and dental professionals — as well as dental office staff and even parents of pediatric dental patients — can play a pivotal role in addressing tobacco-related issues among teenagers and helping to prevent lifelong complications. Through routine dental visits, dentists can screen for tobacco use, educate patients and parents about its detrimental effects, and provide evidence-based interventions for prevention and cessation. By fostering tobacco-free environments in dental offices, modeling appropriate behaviors, and supporting legislative measures against tobacco promotion, pediatric dentists can actively contribute to curbing tobacco use among youth and reducing risk factors to help protect the long-term oral and dental health of their patients.

Concerned about the oral health risks of tobacco use in teens? Contact our Lawrenceville, GA pediatric dentistry office to learn more

Tobacco use poses a significant threat to teenagers' oral health that can have lifelong consequences. From smoking cigarettes to using smokeless tobacco products and vaping, adolescents are susceptible to a range of oral diseases and complications associated with these behaviors. However, through concerted efforts by pediatric dentists and healthcare professionals — along with parental support — we can help mitigate the impact of tobacco use, safeguarding the oral health and overall well-being of future generations. Through continuing to raise awareness, implementing preventive measures, and advocating for policies that deter tobacco consumption among teenagers, our office is dedicated to helping protect our patients’ and the community’s health. To learn more about how you can help discourage tobacco use in teens, or if you suspect that your child may be at risk for oral problems due to tobacco use, call Apple Tree Pediatric Dentistry to schedule a consultation with Lawrenceville, GA pediatric dentist Dr. Jeni Kong today,

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.