Before You Light Up, Read This
Startling as it may sound, many smokers need to be made more aware of the dangers of cigarette use. In fact, just 29 percent of smokers say they think 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.
Clearly, while information about the medical problems 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 repercussions tobacco use can have on your health, congratulations! By accessing information about the negative impacts of smoking, you are taking the first step toward quitting. The American Academy of Periodontology wants you to understand yet another significant reason to quit: Tobacco use is harmful to oral health. Recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most important risk factors in the advancement and progression of periodontal disease. In addition, following periodontal treatment or any type of oral surgery, the chemicals in tobacco can impede the healing process and make the treatment results less predictable.
How does the use of tobacco increase your risk for periodontal disease? As a smoker, 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 extracted during a professional cleaning, and it remains below your gum line, the bacteria in the calculus can compromise 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 time passes without treatment, periodontal disease will progress. The pockets between your teeth and gums might 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 may become loose, painful and even fall out.
Save Your Smile
Research shows that smokers lose more teeth than nonsmokers do. Actually, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about twenty percent of people over the age of 65 who have never smoked are toothless, while a whopping 41.3 percent of daily smokers over the age of 65 are toothless. In addition, research shows that current smokers do not heal as well following periodontal treatment as former smokers or nonsmokers. But, these effects are reversible if the smokers kick the habit before beginning dental treatment.
Not Just Cigarettes
Other tobacco products are also harmful to your periodontal health. Smokeless tobacco also can cause gums to recede and increase the chance of losing the bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place.
Other Oral Problems
Researchers have also realized that the following issues 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 smokers are about four times more likely than people who have never smoked to have advanced periodontal (gum) disease. But, eleven years after quitting, former smokers were not any more likely than non-tobacco users to suffer from bad gums. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluated US government health data on 13,650 people aged 18 and older 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 a day were about three times more likely than nonsmokers to have periodontitis. But, those who smoked more than a pack and a half per 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.” Using tobacco reduces the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the gums. This damages 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 stroke, respiratory disease, heart disease, premature babies and diabetes. John Hunt, chief executive 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.