It’s a new kind of freedom. No more bad breath to cover, unnecessary tooth staining, or mouth sores to contend with. Gone are her worries about tooth decay and loss, shrinking gums, black hairy tongue, jawbone deterioration, and high risks of oral cancer. Gained is a new sense of taste, smell and ownership of life!
Jessica Mefford of Bremerton, Wash., had spent 34 of her 43 years smoking. “I had my first cigarette when I was only 9, and by age 12 I was hooked,” she said, describing the root of her horrible addition. “I had been supporting a pack-a-day habit, but at a big cost.”
Beyond her monthly $250 cigarette expenditures, and other “cover-up” incidentals, Mefford had bought into more than she ever bargained for.
Many studies have proven the ill effects of smoking on overall well-being, but oral health is directly affected, too. The Academy of General Dentistry has observed tooth loss due to smoking at the rate of 2.9 teeth every 10 years for men and 1.5 teeth every 10 years for women. Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as non-smokers, according to the results of two separate 30-year studies at Tufts University in Boston.
Tobacco contains many substances known to be cytotoxic (destructive to your body’s cells and tissues). Specifically, the nicotine in tobacco causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels). It restricts the blood flow to the gums, by as much as 70% in the mouth during the smoking of a cigarette, which limits the nutrients necessary to the bone and periodontal support of the teeth.
Thus, a detrimental chain of events begins. Smokers have more calculus (hardened dental plaque) than nonsmokers, and heavy smokers have more calculus than light smokers. This build-up on teeth, which turns to tartar, can cause gingivitis. From there, smokers often develop periodontal disease, which culminates in tooth loss. Tobacco smoking, furthermore, affects the body’s immune responses and defense system.
“The truth is, back when I started, no one really talked about how it would grab you,” Mefford said. “But nicotine is one of the hardest drugs to get off and smoking is one of the most useless habits you can develop. It’s not relaxing at all. With every hit, you are just maintaining until the next withdrawal.”
A smart, successful businesswoman in her own right, Mefford understood the risks, yet could not let it go or avoid some of the extreme repercussions – waking up with a chest heavy from smoke, trying to clear her throat full of “scary phlegm,” coughing all the time, and difficulty walking without panting. “There’s just nothing cool about it so, if you don’t smoke, don’t start. I wanted to be rid of it all! It had started to become embarrassing,” she said. “I spent a lot of time chewing gum, washing my hands, going outdoors and pacing my appointments around my habit. But you can’t brush away the toxins you are putting in your system.”
Having seriously tried to quit, twice in the past, without permanent success, Mefford felt like her addiction owned her, and had somewhat resided herself to no way out. “Then, my son inspired me in a way no one else could have,” she said, speaking of 14-year-old Bradley. “I really do give him a lot of the credit in helping me cut the gags!”
Bradley did a “ton of research” and found a way to help his mom transition, rather than stop cold turkey like she had tried before, using a personal vaporizer to taper down her nicotine intake. “I was able to concentrate on breaking the physical side of my addiction, while fulfilling the activity – the routine – which is the other part of any smoker’s habit,” she explained.
The soon-to-be sophomore at Klahowya Secondary School says he is so proud of his mother. “I didn’t push it. I just gave her a reasonable way to pace herself, a better alternative, and tried to keep encouraging her along the way – telling her what she means to me,” Bradley shared sweetly. “We have a pretty amazing bond.”
After 5 ½ months cigarette-free, Mefford is no longer counting days. “It’s a lifestyle now, and I have this strong, caring, 6-foot beautiful boy to thank,” she said. “He convinced me I could do it! I feel healthier already, and so much more free.”
Clear Creek Dentistry compliments these two patients on a remarkable shared achievement and commitment to better health!