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Quit Smoking for a Healthy Mouth

If you’re a smoker, you’ve likely heard all the health problems that smoking can cause — emphysema, pregnancy complications, and heart disease, to name a few. But did you know that smoking can also harm your mouth? Not only does tobacco stain teeth and fingernails an ugly yellow, but it can also cause gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss, and mouth and other cancers. With all these harmful effects, it’s no wonder that many people decide to quit.

Prescription for Change

Once you’ve decided you want to quit, you have many options to turn to, including nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT), medication, and counseling. NRT provides nicotine without the other harmful components of tobacco smoke. Because nicotine is the physically addictive substance in tobacco, NRT allows you to focus on the psychological side of quitting. Once you’ve had a chance to change your behavior, you can then wean your body off the nicotine.

Five types of NRT products have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges can be bought over the counter. Nicotine sprays and inhalers are available by prescription.

If you’re pregnant or have heart or circulatory disease, be sure to talk with your doctor before using one of these products.

Two non-nicotine medications have also been shown to help smokers quit. Bupropion (Zyban) affects brain chemicals that play a key role in the craving for nicotine. Varenicline (Chantix) was also approved by the FDA in 2006. It acts at sites in the brain that are affected by nicotine to lessen the pleasurable effects of smoking and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the best option for you.

Also ask about counseling and support programs. These programs can advise you about the best quit method to fit your needs and can provide encouragement to stay quit. Aside from your doctor, other sources for referrals include your local hospital, health department, or American Cancer Society chapter (800-ACS-2345 or 800-227-2345).

Another resource is the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quit Lines (800-QUIT-NOW or 800-784-8669). A recent study of 837 daily smokers found that telephone counseling increased the use of other quit-smoking aids and improved the chance of success compared to routine health care alone.

You Can Do It

Giving up smoking isn’t easy, but it can be done. In fact, current smokers make up only 21 percent of the adult population. Soon after quitting, you may notice that food tastes better, your sense of smell is more acute, and you can more easily be active without getting winded. Other people will notice that your breath and clothes smell better. And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re keeping your mouth — and your entire body — healthy.

“Smoking and Tobacco.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association.   http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/s/smoking-and-tobacco Accessed 2013.

“Harms of Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting.” National Cancer Institute. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cessation Accessed 2013.

“Smoking & How to Quit.” Office on Women’s Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 19, 2010. http://www.womenshealth.gov/smoking-how-to-quit/ Accessed 2013.

“Gum Disease.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/g/gum-disease Accessed 2013.

“Guide to Quitting Smoking.” American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/index Accessed 2013.

“Benefits of Telephone Care Over Primary Care for Smoking Cessation.” Archives of Internal Medicine. L.C. An, et al. March 13, 2006. Vol. 166, no. 5, pp. 536–42. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=409929. Accessed 2013.

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