Tits, Teeth and Tobacco

I used to smoke.  I classed myself as a ‘social smoker’. This basically meant never buying my own cigarettes but would happily smoke several packets of someone else’s fags at a weekend.  Technically not smoking. I didn’t buy them.

My last memory of smoking was taking a few drags of someone’s cigarette after several large glasses of red wine.  The red wine ended up being ejected violently down the toilet mere seconds after the head rush had caused my stomach to reject it’s ruby refreshment. That was over four years ago.

Smoking gets bad press. Cancer, emphysema, stroke, heart disease, amputation.  This ‘one size fits all’ health message doesn’t cause people to race in their droves to the nearest chemist to jack up on nicotine-laced alternatives, but instead tends to steer smokers towards testing their associated mortality. “My nan smoked until she was 103 and was running marathons up until a week before she died.” “I’ve smoked since I was 4 and have never had a chest infection in my life.” “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.”

I grew up in a very smoking-friendly atmosphere.  Visiting grandparents consisted of sitting into a smoke-filled living room, chatting and playing games.  I remember being fascinated by the way the smoke rose up from the firey tip and how my grandmother let her ash drop onto the floor.  I would obsessively try and predict the exact moment the spent tobacco would break free from the crisp, white smoke, silently disassembling on the carpet. I remember making an ashtray in primary school for my Nan and Grandad and buying matchsticks as a present on a school trip.

Despite my own fond memories of familial smoking paraphernalia, plus my own occasional dabble, I have become vehemently opposed to the mere wisp of a cigarette-related chemical near my own children and around my general person.

Despite there being a number of unfavourable outcomes to smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding (and bottle feeding for that matter – passive smoking occurs no matter how you feed your babies. And yes, I extend that to grandparents. Cough cough, splutter splutter), research still suggests that the benefits to boobing outweighs the risks of smoking whilst breastfeeding. However, it should still be actively discouraged due to the difficulties babies have in metabolising the nicotine in their newborn livers.

The risks to infants are listed as increased irritability, sleep disorders, increased weight gain, ear infections, chest infections, hypothyroidism and vomiting, just to name a few. These are all just risks as it is difficult to categorically state that something was definitely caused from smoking.

My job involves staring into people’s mouths, several hundred times a month.  I would say I see a larger proportion of smokers to non-smokers, probably because of stain-removal requirements and increased incidence of gum disease.  In the ten years of mouth staring, I have noticed a few definites, backed by research, of which I would like to share:

Smoking does not guarantee dentures. It doesn’t always guarantee tooth loss. However, the cigarette you put out about 3 minutes prior to entering the surgery still smells as strong as when you first lit up, thus violating my nostrils for the entire appointment. Even through my mask. It also makes the room smell like a fag bin for the following patient.

Instead of having the texture of a crisp, firm grape, your gums will resemble orange peel and will feel as rubbery to probe.  The leathery gums will be unnaturally rigid and hide a bounty of treasure underneath, normally in the form of rock-hard tartar that has absorbed all the noxious chemicals and will too emit it’s own micro-odour.  The toxic tartar will have the tenacity of builder’s cement but you’re very unlikely to be aware of it’s existence because the body’s usual warning signs, such as bleeding and inflammation, will be severely inhibited by the constriction of local blood vessels.

You do not have nicotine staining. The brown stain that coats your teeth and tongue is the tar from the tobacco. Despite my best efforts to remove it every four months, so you look acceptable to the rest of the human race, there will come a point when I can no longer polish it off and the stain becomes absorbed into the tooth’s natural structure. Sorry about that.

More worryingly, there have been three occasions where I have noticed the tongue looking unusually blue.  All three patients went on to have heart attacks in the following twelve months.

Talking of tongues, this happens. Your poor tastebuds get smothered under a heavy film of brown sludge. (Now imagine the delights of oral sex with a smoker.)

If you have ever contemplated quitting smoking, don’t do it for your improved health. Don’t do it to stop lining the greedy, taxing, politician bastard’s pockets. Don’t even do it for your baby’s newborn lungs. Do it for me. Do it for all hygienists. Because just sometimes, it is soul destroying spending the day polishing turds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s