Can't Stop Smoking? What Are Your Best Orthodontic Options?

Dentist Articles

If you've always wanted to correct the alignment and appearance of your teeth, you may be investigating various types of braces and retainers designed for use on adult teeth. However, for those who are regular smokers, some types of braces can cause tooth staining and other issues. Are there any orthodontic options available for you if you're unable (or unwilling) to give up your smoking habit? Read on to learn more about the braces you should seek (and avoid) as a smoker.

What problems can smoking pose for orthodontic treatments?

Although tooth enamel is one of the hardest substances in your body, over time exposure to the tar and chemicals in cigarette smoke can stain your teeth to a yellowish or brownish hue. If you have metal braces affixed to your teeth, the brackets may protect parts of your tooth enamel -- but leave a braces-shaped outline on your teeth once your orthodontic treatment has been completed. You'll then need to have laser or chemical teeth whitening treatments to try to remove these marks and fade the staining on your teeth -- treatments unlikely to be covered by your dental or medical insurance.

For those considering switching to chewing tobacco instead of cigarettes to avoid this issue, you may face different troubles. Braces require some additional care when it comes to brushing and flossing, and trying to get small bits of chewing tobacco out from in between your braces may be a tedious and difficult process. You may also experience some staining, particularly of the teeth on the side of your mouth where you tend to hold the tobacco.

While it's possible to get traditional metal braces while smoking, few dentists will recommend this practice, and you may even have trouble securing this treatment if you don't express a desire or willingness to try to cut back on smoking during the time you have braces. 

Are there any braces that will straighten your teeth without uneven staining?

If you're not able to quit smoking before (or during) your orthodontic treatment, there are some options that can avoid the problems inherent with wire braces and tobacco use. 

Clear plastic braces are generally the best option for smokers. These braces are designed to be worn for the majority of the day, including while you're asleep, but can be periodically removed for eating, brushing, and smoking (among other activities). The more frequently you wear your braces, the more effective they'll be -- but by removing them to smoke, you'll be able to avoid staining or uneven wear. You can choose to smoke while you have your braces in, but doing so could potentially stain your braces themselves (making it appear your teeth are stained) or weaken the plastic of the braces so that you'll need to replace them ahead of schedule. 

These braces should always be removed if you're using loose chewing tobacco, as the particles will likely find their way beneath the braces and your teeth and cause damage and an unsightly appearance. If you chew tobacco in a pre-sealed mesh pouch, doing so with your plastic braces in may shorten the life of your braces somewhat but may protect your teeth from staining or other damage.

However, in most cases it's simpler and better to remove these braces while you're using any type of chewing tobacco. Once you've finished with your chew, you should rinse out your mouth with water before putting your braces back. This will help prevent damage to your teeth from nicotine trapped between your teeth and the inside surface of your braces, as well as prevent erosion of the braces themselves. 

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15 January 2016