07 MAR 2024

If you or a loved one is living with a mental illness, it’s important to understand the risks associated with smoking. Studies show that individuals with mental health conditions are more likely to smoke, leading to a range of health issues, including oral diseases.

This guide is here to offer support for individuals with mental illnesses, as well as their families and carers, providing insights into the links between smoking and oral health and offering practical advice for a healthier lifestyle.

Understanding the links

Smoking can lead to several oral health problems, from gum disease and tooth loss to oral cancer.

The toxins in tobacco smoke can affect the flow of saliva, promote plaque buildup, and impair the body’s ability to fight off infections.

Over time, these factors can lead to serious oral health issues.

People with mental health conditions often turn to smoking as a form of self-medication. However, smoking can exacerbate mental health symptoms and lead to physical health problems, creating a vicious cycle.

Tips for quitting smoking and improving oral health 

Quitting smoking can significantly improve both your mental and oral health. Twice as many people who have mental health issues smoke. Here are some tips to help you on your journey:

Seek professional support: Connect with healthcare professionals, including your dental team, mental health and smoking cessation experts. They can provide personalised strategies to address both mental health and smoking concerns.

Set realistic goals: Quitting smoking is a journey. Set achievable goals and celebrate small victories. Progress is progress, no matter how gradual.

Explore replacement therapies: Consider nicotine replacement options like patches or gum to ease the transition. Vaping has also been recommended for people who are trying to quit smoking. Discuss these with your healthcare provider for personalised recommendations.

Establish good oral care habits: Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and use interdental brushes to clean between teeth. Consistent oral care is vital for preventing issues.

Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to combat dry mouth, a common side effect of both smoking and some mental health medications. Hydration supports saliva production, which helps protect teeth.

Limit sugary snacks: Reduce sugary snacks and beverages, as they contribute to tooth decay. Instead, opt for healthier alternatives like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Regular dental check-ups: Schedule routine dental check-ups to monitor your oral health. Communicate openly with your dentist about your mental health and smoking cessation efforts.

Encouragement for families and carers

Supporting a loved one with a mental illness requires understanding and patience. Encourage open communication about their struggles and offer help in seeking professional support for both mental health and smoking cessation.

By addressing smoking and oral health as part of an overall well-being strategy, people with mental illnesses can embark on a journey toward improved health and vitality. Remember, taking small steps today can lead to significant positive changes tomorrow.