Understand the Risks Before You Smoke
Surprising as it may sound, many smokers need to be made more aware of the risks of smoking. In fact, just 29 percent of smokers say they believe themselves to be at an above-average risk for heart attack compared with their nonsmoking peers, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Undoubtedly, while information about the medical complications associated with smoking – such as lung disease, cancer, heart disease and low-birth-weight infants – is widely available, many smokers seem to have tuned out. If you are a smoker who is concerned about the consequences smoking can have on your health, congratulations! By gaining information about the unfavorable impacts of smoking, you are taking the first leap toward quitting. The American Academy of Periodontology wants you to understand yet another good reason to quit: Tobacco use is harmful to oral health. Recent studies have shown that smoking may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. In addition, following periodontal treatment or any type of oral surgery, the chemicals in tobacco can hinder the healing process and make the treatment results less predictable.
How does the use of tobacco inflate your risk for periodontal disease? As a tobacco user, you are more likely than nonsmokers to have these problems:
• Calculus – plaque that hardens on your teeth and is difficult to remove
• Deep pockets between your teeth and gums
• Loss of the bone and tissue that support your teeth
If the calculus is not removed during a professional cleaning, and it remains below your gum line, the bacteria in the calculus might attack your gum tissue and cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. If this happens, periodontal pockets form and fill with disease-causing bacteria. If left untreated, periodontal disease will progress. The pockets between your teeth and gums may grow deeper, allowing in more bacteria that destroy tissue and supporting bone. Because of this, the gums could pull away from the teeth making them appear longer. With no treatment, your teeth could become loose, painful and even fall out.
Save Your Smile
Research shows that tobacco users lose more teeth than nonsmokers do. In fact, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 20 percent of people over the age of 65 who have never smoked are toothless, while a whopping 41.3 percent of regular smokers over the age of 65 are toothless. In addition, research shows that current tobacco users do not bounce back as well after periodontal treatment as former tobacco users or nonsmokers. The good news is, these effects are fixable if the tobacco users kick the habit prior to beginning dental treatment.
Not Just Cigarettes
Other kinds tobacco products are also harmful to your periodontal health. Smokeless tobacco can also cause gums to recede and inflate the chance of losing the bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place.
Other Oral Problems
Researchers have also realized that the following problems occur more often in people who use tobacco products:
• Oral cancer
• Bad breath
• Stained teeth
• Tooth loss
• Bone loss
• Loss of taste
• Less success with periodontal treatment
• Less success with dental implants
• Gum recession
• Mouth sores
• Facial wrinkling
Copyright: The American Academy of Periodontology, 2007
BBC reports: Smoking causes 50% of gum disease in the U.S.
Smoking may be responsible for the majority of the cases of gum disease among adults in the US, according to researchers. The study found that current tobacco users are about 4 times more likely than people who have never used tobacco to have advanced periodontal (gum) disease. But, eleven years after quitting, former tobacco users were not any more likely than non-tobacco users to suffer from bad gums. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed US government health data on 13,650 people over the age of 18 who had their own teeth. Dr. Scott Tomar, lead researcher said: “Cigarette smoking may well be the major preventable risk factor for periodontal disease. The good news is that quitting seems to gradually erase the harmful effects of tobacco use on periodontal health.” The researchers also found that the odds of developing gum disease were increased still further by heavy smoking.
Smokers who smoked less than half a pack per day were about 3 times more likely than nonsmokers to have periodontitis. But, those who smoked more than a pack and a half during a day had almost 6 times the risk. The president of the American Academy of Periodontology, Jack Caton, said: “Every day periodontists see the destruction smoking causes in the mouths of their patients. I hope the staggering statistics from this study will compel even more dental care providers to get involved in tobacco cessation efforts.” Smoking reduces the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the gums. This hinders the healing process, and makes smokers’ gums more vulnerable to infection. In addition to being a major cause of tooth loss, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease and premature babies. Chief executive John Hunt said: “This is very useful research showing just how bad smoking can be for your gums. If you want to keep your teeth, don’t smoke.”
The research is published in the Journal of Periodontology.