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Understand the Dangers

Surprising as it may sound, many smokers need to be made more aware of the dangers of tobacco use. 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 in March of 1999.

Obviously, 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 effects smoking can have on your health, congratulations! By accessing information about the negative impacts of tobacco use, you are taking the first step 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 tobacco use 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 slow down the healing process and make the treatment results less predictable.

How does smoking increase your risk for periodontal disease? As a smoker, you are more likely than nonsmokers to have the following problems:

  •  Calculus – plaque that hardens on your teeth and can only be removed during a professional cleaning
  •  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 can destroy your gum tissue and cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. When 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 can 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 look longer. Without treatment, your teeth may become loose, painful and even fall out.

Save Your Smile

Research shows that smokers 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 age 65 who have never smoked are toothless, while a whopping 41.3 percent of daily smokers over age 65 are toothless.

In addition, research shows that current smokers don’t heal as well after periodontal treatment as former smokers or nonsmokers. But these effects are reversible if the smokers kick the habit before beginning 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

Researches also have found 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 more than half of the cases of gum disease among adults in the US, say 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.

However, 11 years after quitting, former smokers were no more likely than non-smokers to suffer from bad gums.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 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 heavy smoking.

Dose effect

Smokers who smoked less than half a pack per day were almost three times more likely than nonsmokers 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 damages the healing process, and makes smokers’ gums more susceptible 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.


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