If you smoke, you are probably all too aware of how smoking affects your general health, but have you thought about its impact on your dental health? Some side-effects are obvious, such as bad breath and stained teeth, but smoking has far more serious implications for your gum health.
In fact, smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for developing gum disease (periodontal disease), and it’s estimated over 60% of smokers have some signs of gum disease. When you smoke, your risk of periodontal disease is doubled compared to non-smokers, and you are four times as likely to have advanced periodontal disease, a severe condition that can lead to tooth loss and which can affect your general health. The longer you have smoked, the higher the risk, regardless of whether you use cigarettes or other forms of tobacco. Even just being exposed to second-hand smoke can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease.
One of the huge problems with smoking is that it can mask the signs of gum disease, so even if you have this problem, you may be unlikely to seek help and advice from your dentist in Clarington. Common symptoms of gum disease include red and puffy gums that are quite fragile, and which easily bleed whenever you brush or floss. In smokers, even gum tissue infected with periodontal disease tends to look firm and will bleed less frequently, if at all. It’s a condition called “disease masking,” but even if the gums look healthy, it doesn’t mean they are!
How Can Smoking Mask the Signs of Gum Disease?
Healthy gums have good circulation where blood vessels carry oxygen and other nutrients to the gums, transporting toxins away from the gums. Good circulation helps the gums to fight infection and to heal more efficiently. When you smoke, nicotine narrows the blood vessels, and new blood vessels find it harder to grow. The amount of oxygen and nutrients reaching your gums and other tissues around your teeth is reduced, leaving them more vulnerable to infection. When they are damaged, healing is slower. Restricted blood flow in the gums is the reason why smokers’ gums can often look a healthy pink despite being diseased.
Even worse, smokers’ gums are more likely than non-smokers to harbour the harmful bacteria that cause gum disease, and they are less able to produce antibodies to fight these bacteria. If you can’t fight infection and repair damaged gums, the disease progresses more rapidly. Tobacco smoke also contains chemicals that cause cell damage, and which can break down the connective tissues holding your teeth in place.
How Regular Preventative Dental Care Can Help
If you are a smoker, it’s important to tell our dentist in Clarington when you next visit West Bowmanville Family Dental. We will want to know how frequently you smoke and how long you’ve been a smoker. Regular check-ups and hygiene appointments are even more critical for smokers, and we will want to keep a close eye on your dental health to monitor any changes to your gums. Smoking is also a risk factor for oral cancer so we will need to screen you regularly for any signs of this disease.
Ideally, it’s a great idea to quit if you can. When you stop using tobacco, your risk of developing gum disease in Courtice gets lower as your body is more able to repair itself. One study discovered ex-smokers who’d stopped using tobacco 11 years previously had nearly the same risk of developing periodontal disease compared with people who had never smoked.