Before You Light Up, Read This
Astonishing as it may sound, many smokers need to be made more aware of the dangers of tobacco use. In fact, just twenty-nine percent of smokers say they believe themselves to be at a higher risk for heart attack compared with their nonsmoking peers, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Clearly, while information about the medical troubles associated with smoking – such as lung disease, cancer, heart disease and low-birth-weight infants – is widely available, many smokers apparently have tuned out. If you are a smoker who is concerned about the outcomes smoking can have on your health, congratulations! By accessing information about the unfavorable impacts of tobacco use, you are taking the first leap toward quitting. The American Academy of Periodontology wants you to realize yet another good reason to quit: Smoking is harmful to oral health. New studies have shown that smoking could be one of the most serious 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 smoking inflate your risk for periodontal disease? As a tobacco user, you are more likely than nonsmokers to have the following 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 may 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. As a result, the gums may shrink away from the teeth making them appear longer. With no treatment, your teeth can become loose, painful and even fall out.
Save Your Smile
Research shows that tobacco users lose more teeth than non-tobacco users do. Actually, 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 following periodontal treatment as former tobacco users or nonsmokers. But, these effects are reversible if the tobacco users kick the habit prior to starting 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 keep your teeth in place.
Other Oral Problems
Researchers also have found that the following issues occur most 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 could be responsible for more than half 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 smoked to have advanced periodontal (gum) disease. However, eleven years after quitting, former tobacco users were not any more likely than non-smokers to suffer from bad gums. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers studied US government health data on 13,650 people over the age of 18 who had their own teeth. Lead researcher Dr. Scott Tomar 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 smoking heavily.
Smokers who smoked less than half a pack per day were almost 3 times more likely than non-tobacco users to have periodontitis. But, those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day had almost six times the risk. Jack Caton, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, 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 huge 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.