Smoking and Gum Disease – Taking Away Not Just Your Breath But Also Your Teeth

Smokers tend to tune out warning about the dangers of their habit. A survey of smokers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1999, for example, found that just 29 per cent of smokers believed that their tobacco use would really increase their risk of a heart attack. Many smokers even refuse to believe that they are at increased risk for lung cancer. But add to the list a new complication of smoking, gingivitis and other forms of gum disease.

Smokers have greater problems with four of the factors that lead to gum disease than non-smokers.

  • Smokers get more plaque on their teeth at the gum line.
  • Smokers tend to have more pockets of inflammation in the gums in locations that are not visible just by looking in the mouth.
  • Smokers have more deterioration of the jaw bone when their gum infections go untreated, and
  • Smokers have thinner gums than non-smokers.

handsThat last factor explains most of the reason smokers have more tooth loss and bone infections from gingivitis. The gums pull back from the teeth faster, creating new places for bacteria to infect, and they have less “grip” on the teeth. According to information from the US Centers for Disease Control, by age 65, nearly half of all smokers have lost all of their teeth. And even those who wear dentures continue to have problems with gum disease!

Tooth loss is not the only complication of gum disease caused by smoking. Smokers are more likely to have:

  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth
  • Loss of sense of taste
  • Lower rates of success with dental implants
  • More receded gums
  • More mouth sores
  • More facial wrinkling, and, of course,
  • More cancers of the mouth, neck, and throat

The risks of smoking are about the same whether the user smokes cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe. And these problems also occur in people who use smokeless tobacco.

Maybe you don’t care about heart attacks or lung cancer, but do you want to be toothless, too? Smoking cessation, now, is the best way to preserve your gums and your teeth. Don’t wait to quit.