Relationship Between Smoking and Gum Disease
It is a common knowledge that smoking can lead to numerous adverse health effects such as throat cancer, lung cancer, COPD, and others associated with the habit.
If you are a smoker, you might be concerned about your heart as well. But you shouldn’t neglect how this habit could affect your mouth, as well.
By better understanding the relationship between smoking and gum disease, you can take the proper precautions to keep your smile healthy.
Smoking and Gum Disease
Gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease, a condition occurs when plaque builds up and targets the tissue that forms the gums, jawbone, and underlying tissues. And if you’re not brushing or flossing effectively, these structures of the mouth will be compromised, the result is often tooth loss. You can also have a higher risk if you’ve inherited thinner gum tissues from your parents. Since there are so many dangerous chemicals found in cigarette smoke, smokers are at a significantly higher risk of developing gum disease and eventual tooth loss.
Smoking will weaken your body’s ability to fight infection, by weakening your immune system, and making it more difficult for you to fight off infection. If you are a smoker, this can mean a variety of things:
- The more frequently that you smoke, the greater your risk for developing gum disease will be.
- Smokers have twice the risk for developing gum disease than nonsmokers.
- Gum disease treatments might not work as well for smokers as it would for nonsmokers.
You should also remember that there is no “safe” form of tobacco. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco, or even e-cigarettes will all raise your risk of developing gum disease.
How Smoking affects the gum?
Smoking alters the oral environment to make it friendlier for disease-causing bacteria. Some chemicals released in tobacco can damage gum tissues, which can cause them to gradually detach from the teeth. This can lead to tooth loss, which smokers are three times more likely to experience than non-smokers.
Smoking may also hide the early signs of gum disease like red, swollen or bleeding gums. But because the nicotine in tobacco restricts the blood supply to gum tissue, the gums of a smoker with gum disease may look healthy. But it’s a camouflage, which could delay prompt treatment that could prevent further damage.
Finally because tobacco can inhibit the body’s production of antibodies to fight infection, smoking may slow the healing process because of the lack of sufficient oxygen in their bloodstream. This also means tobacco users have a higher risk of a repeat infection, something known as refractory periodontitis. This can create a cycle of treatment and re-infection that can significantly increase dental care costs.
Other Oral Problems Caused by Smoking
The gums aren’t the only oral problem that can develop with smoking. Smokers are at a considerably higher risk than nonsmokers to develop a condition known as leukoplakia, which can lead to oral, throat, and lung cancers. Smoking can lead to inflammation of the salivary glands that can contribute to bone structure deterioration, and smokers will have a more difficult time recovering from dental procedures like extractions or dental implants. When an extraction is performed, smokers are more likely of dealing with dry socket due to exposure of the nerve endings and bone.
The appearance of your smile can also be negatively impacted by smoking. Smoking tends to stain the teeth and may result in bad breath. In some situations, smokers may develop a black, hairy tongue due to growth that results from tobacco use. You might also lose your sense of smell and taste.
How to Care for Your Mouth as a Smoker
Obviously, the most effective way to ensure improved oral health is to quit smoking. Moreover, quitting will definitely increase your chances of preventing gum disease in the first place. As it leaves your system, your body will respond much quicker to heal itself, but should you choose to continue smoking, there are some important tips that you can follow. First, you should be sure to take your oral hygiene routine seriously by brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash regularly.
You should also invest in oral hygiene products that are specially made for smokers. There are certain toothpastes intended for smokers, as they can be chemically stronger than regular store brands. These toothpastes can also tackle difficult to clean bacteria, and using mouthwash can help to reduce the bacteria count while also combating the bad breath that often accompanies smoking.
Given the numerous complications and risks of smoking on your oral health, it is crucial that you maintain your regular dental checkup schedule. Be sure to visit your dentist at least twice per year, although depending on your oral health status, your periodontist may recommend that you come in more frequently. During your visits, your Periodontist will help to look for signs that gum disease or oral cancer are developing, allowing you to catch and deal with issues while they are still treatable.