(NewsUSA) - When people discuss the health effects of tobacco, they rarely mention tooth loss. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 41.3 percent of daily smokers over age 65 are toothless, compared to 20 percent of the nonsmoking population.

How does smoking put gaps in your smile? All forms of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars and smokeless "chew," can cause gum tissue to recede, leaving a greater percentage of each tooth exposed to the bacteria that cause gum disease. Smoking also interferes with healing by reducing blood flow, making it easier for infection to set in and harder to eradicate it.

Quitting tobacco is the best thing smokers can do to improve their health, but going cold-turkey is easier said than done. However, even smokers struggling to quit can take steps to promote healthy teeth and gums. Dr. Jeffrey Hillman, DMD, Ph.D., believes that taking oral probiotics, such as EvoraPlus probiotic mints (www.myevoraplus.com), can help smokers maintain their oral health.

"Oral probiotics attach themselves to the teeth and gum tissue, establishing colonies of live, active beneficial bacteria both on the surface of the teeth and deep beneath the gum line," says Dr. Hillman. "These colonies compete for both nutrients and space with the harmful oral bacteria that challenge gum and tooth health, as well as cause bad breath."

In addition to crowding out bad bacteria, the oral probiotics in EvoraPlus naturally release low levels of hydrogen peroxide, so EvoraPlus gently whitens teeth. This is more good news for smokers, as tobacco products create stains on teeth that cannot be removed through regular brushing. Taking oral probiotics won't reduce tobacco users' risk of oral cancer or lung disease. As advanced gum disease has been linked to systematic health problems, such as heart disease, which is also exacerbated by smoking, smokers should take every step to keep their mouths healthy as they work to quit smoking.