Nicotine stomatitis – what smokers should know

Nicotine stomatitis – what smokers should know

March 11, 2020 6:03 am Published by

If you are a smoker then, unfortunately, it does impact your oral health in different ways. One such issue is known as ‘nicotine stomatitis’. As with all health conditions, it’s better to be informed and prepared if there is a chance it might affect you. Read on for more on this condition – and what to do if you think you have it.

  • What is it?

Also known as ‘smoker’s palate’, this condition has a few different names, but they all mean the same thing – a problem affecting the inside roof of the mouth, due to smoking. People who have this condition have inflamed mucus membranes in their mouth. Despite the name, it’s not actually caused by nicotine. In fact, it’s caused by intense heat and irritation from chemicals in the tobacco itself.

  • Who can it affect?

The condition tends to affect pipe smokers mostly and is much less common in cigarette and cigar smokers. It also affects anyone who ‘reverse smokes’ – that is, smoking cigarettes with the lit end inside the mouth. Because more men than women smoke pipes, it is a condition that affects men more often. A lot of hot drinks can also increase the likelihood of it developing, but this is quite rare. Nicotine stomatitis will typically affect those who are long term smokers, as the heat exposure needs to be over a significant period of time for the damage to occur. If you have dentures, then this can actually have a protective effect, as they act as a barrier against the heat. Denture wearers with the condition will probably only have the damage at the back of the mouth, where the dentures don’t reach.

  • Do I have it?

The condition doesn’t have any symptoms, so sufferers can go for years without realizing– though sometimes you might have some irritation. The problem starts with redness over the hard palate (the bony bit of the roof of your mouth near the front) and occasionally the soft palate (towards the back of the mouth). Over time, the palate whitens and becomes cracked – a bit like mud, when it becomes dries out. The white parts are basically sores on the roof of your mouth. You have salivary glands in the roof of your mouth, and these may become inflamed also, which gives the appearance of red dots. The appearance might get worse, or it might stay the same for years.

  • How is it diagnosed?

Most medical professionals can diagnose the condition just based on the appearance of the color, cracks, and dots. For this reason, it’s likely you’ll only discover the condition at your regular dental check-up. The best medical professionals such as Drs. Nicolas & Asp may choose to perform a biopsy to be sure there is nothing else causing the condition. Make sure you are honest with your doctor or dentist about how long you have smoked for, and how much you smoke. This will enable them to treat and advise you in the best way.

  • How is it treated?

If you needed another motivation to kick the habit – then you’ll be interested to know that the condition should stop, pretty much as soon as you stop smoking! it usually takes one or two weeks for the condition to improve, then disappears overtime entirely. Of course, there is an increased risk of oral cancer when you smoke, so it makes sense to get a professional to check out your mouth – particularly if you stop smoking and the sores still don’t go away. The dentist might perform a mucosal biopsy just to be absolutely sure there are no other problems and will advise you on general teeth and gum care.

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