If your New Year’s resolution was to quit smoking, you can look forward to a myriad of health benefits, not to mention a healthier wallet, but did you realize it could help your gum health?
Tobacco Use Increases Your Risk of Gum Disease
Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for developing gum disease, and many smokers have poor gum health. According to the Ontario Dental Association, smoking could be responsible for up to 75% of periodontal diseases in adults. The more frequently you smoke, and the longer you use tobacco products, the higher the risk. All forms of tobacco are risky for oral health, and even second-hand smoke is associated with a higher risk of gum disease.
One of the problems with smoking is that it can mask the symptoms of gum disease that prompt most people to be concerned about their dental health and to hopefully see a dentist in Oshawa.
How Does Smoking Mask the Signs of Gum Disease?
Usually, people with the early signs of gum disease will notice their gums look a bit redder and puffier than before. If they miss these signs, infected gums tend to bleed during regular brushing and flossing as the gums become more fragile. It is harder to ignore blood on your toothbrush or in the bathroom sink! In smokers, even when their gums are infected, they tend to look firmer and bleed less frequently compared with non-smokers who also have gum disease. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong.
Healthy gums need good circulation so that blood can carry essential nutrients and oxygen and can transport toxins away from the gums. If you smoke, nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow and inhibits the growth of new blood vessels. This reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients getting to the gums and other tissues around your teeth, making them more vulnerable to infection and slowing down the healing process. When blood vessels are narrower, the restricted blood supply reduces bleeding and can make it look as if the gums are healthy pink, when in reality they are diseased.
Also, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to harbour the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Smoking reduces antibody production, so the body is less able to fight these bacteria. An impaired ability to fight the infection and to repair diseased gum tissue allows periodontal disease to progress more rapidly in people who smoke. The actual chemicals in tobacco smoke can cause cell damage, breaking down the connective tissues that keep teeth in place. In heavier smokers, the effects are even worse. Your risk of developing oral cancer is higher if you smoke, and this is one thing we regularly screen for here at Margolian Dentistry.
Treatment for Gum Disease Is Less Effective in Smokers
Treatments for gum disease are often less successful in smokers which is why your dentist in Whitby will always ask how much you smoke and how long you’ve been smoking. If you are unlucky enough to lose teeth because of gum disease, dental implant treatment to restore them is less likely to be successful because of the effect of smoking on healing.
Now for the Good News!
As soon as you stop smoking your body begins to repair itself and gradually your risk of developing gum disease decreases. One study showed that ex-smokers who had quit 11 years earlier faced approximately the same level of risk of developing periodontal disease in Ajax compared to people who had never smoked. Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it is achievable, and there’s lots of help available. You can look forward to enjoying better gum health and your breath will be fresher too!