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How to quit smoking: why working with your dentist can help kick the habit for good

A challenge many people face is how to quit smoking.

As a dentist practising for over thirty years, I’ve seen my share of patients who have reached the point of wanting to kick the habit for good.

One thing I’ve learned when seeing these people is: it’s my job to be humble.

We all know smoking is a health hazard. Even smokers know the damage it can cause to our oral and overall health. So why is it so hard to make the change we know it will benefit us and place us on the road to feeling good?

I’m hardly a philosopher, but here are the thoughts of one caring dentist on the Gold Coast.

Knowing is one thing, doing is another.

If we’re to make sustainable change, we need help along the way.

When it comes to one real way a person can quit smoking, it may come as a surprise to know that working with your dentist can kick the habit.

Want to know more?

Read on to find out why your dentist could be your best ‘quit smoking’ buddy.

To quit smoking, courage is required

I recently met with a lady who had the courage to say Enough!

It wasn’t easy for her.

A smoker her entire adult life, she finally made the courageous step to stop.

When I asked her why, she said she was sick of what smoking had done to her health.

Like many people, she was all too familiar with the damage smoking causes to teeth and gums. Probably more than most. She had lost teeth and suffered physically and emotionally as a result.

Before we launched into treatments and solutions, I congratulated this brave woman. My very words were: You’ve done a brave thing. You’ve faced the hardest person to fight – yourself. But don’t worry. You’re not alone. We’re right here with you to cheer you on and support you with the most ideal care.

It would be so easy to sit from an non-smoking ivory tower and point the finger, but that doesn’t help anyone. Least of all the lovely brave lady who came to see me.

Yes, we will have to educate and raise awareness about the facts. The bottom line is smoking can cause serious damage to teeth and gums. Even to the point there are no bones to hold teeth in place.

But most of us know that at some level.

What’s harder is finding the courage to know it, and then do something about it.

When you quit smoking, it’s not about the smoking

It might sound funny, but I love it when people come to see us at this stage in their life.

I love it because we have an opportunity to be part of change.

We’re not talking ‘world change’ (yet!), but it’s my very personal view we have to start somewhere. And I’m happy to work on the one person at a time principle for now.

Why? Because experience (30 plus years of it) tells me people find it hard to manage sustainable change on their own.

If I reflect on my own experience, I can relate totally. If I want my business to take a new direction, I need help thinking and working that through. When I decide to improve my fitness and health, I get help with that as well.

When you quit smoking, it’s no different. We need support, especially if there are health issues to address.

I ask my patients to see the issues arising from smoking as the signs for things to change.

Often, these have been avoided. We humans are a slow bunch when it comes to change. Sometimes living in a world of denial, we hope stuff will go away. Eventually, when faced with a serious health challenge, we realise, Hmm, that’s not going to happen.

So while we’re addressing the health issues, we’re really making a choice to take better care of ourselves. And that’s always a good thing.

When you quit smoking, it’s a (sometimes bumpy) journey, but you can stay the course with support

One of the first things I do with my patients facing serious oral health concerns is explain the importance of working with their dentist and oral health therapist.

At Dental as Anything, our dentists and oral health therapist really try to get our patients to understand it’s a team effort.

The second thing I do is explain it’s a journey.

Okay, so maybe you’ve heard ‘the journey’ cliche a few times. I get it. But don’t let that put you off the fact that when you quit smoking, it actually is a journey. And sometimes, that big old road, it gets bumpy. Everyone’s at a different stage and sometimes it’s tough.

I know because we work with people who are trying to quit smoking.

We have patients who never give up.

We have ones who start and stop and start and stop.

We have others, like the patient I’ve mentioned here, who are right at the start and want to move on from the past to a healthier future.

Wherever you are on the quit smoking journey, I encourage you to get support and stay the course.

Why? Because with smoking related oral health issues, the longer you leave things, the harder they are to treat.

A little bit of bone loss? Well, it’s not ideal, but we can manage it. On the other hand, if a person has a significant amount of bone loss, it can be far more difficult to remedy.

It also means more preventive care for the individual. These people need to be far more diligent with their personal oral health regime. They require more frequent visits with their oral health therapist – at least twice the average number – to stay on top of their oral health and prevent their condition from worsening.

Approaching things this way means it’s possible to slow down, or prevent, further issues emerging. By visiting the dentist more frequently, we can provide the much needed coaching that empowers a person to stay on track.

In these situations, the coaching is just as important as the dental treatment.

If you’re ready to quit smoking, be courageous. Take time to talk with your dentist and oral health therapist and get the support you need.

Dr Mark Miller has been caring for the local Helensvale and broader Gold Coast community for over thirty years. His approach to dentistry is focused on helping people to understand the connection between their oral health and overall physical wellbeing. He is friendly, funny, and most of all, very caring. If you’d like to discuss your treatment options for any smoking related oral health issues, talk with to one our Patient Care Co-ordinator to book your first visit. Tel 5573 0188

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