Many smokers need to be made more aware of the dangers of tobacco use. Only 29 percent of smokers say they believe themselves to be at an above-average risk for heart attack compared with their non-smoking peers (Journal of the American Medical Association, March 1999).
While information about the medical problems associated with smoking – such as lung disease, cancer, heart disease and low-birth-weight babies – is widely available, many smokers are unaware that 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 gum disease. In addition, following treatment, 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 non-smokers 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.
Smokers lose more teeth than non-smokers do. Only about 20% of people over the age of 65 who have never smoked have lost all their teeth, while 41.3% of daily smokers over age 65 have lost all their teeth.
Current smokers don’t heal as well after gum treatment as former smokers or non-smokers. These effects are reversible if the smokers kick the habit before beginning treatment.
Other tobacco products are also harmful to your gum health. Smokeless or chewing tobacco also can cause gums to recede and increase the chance of losing the bone and fibres that hold your teeth in place.
Cigar and pipe smokers also experience tooth loss and alveolar bone loss at rates equivalent to those of cigarette smokers.
Other Oral Problems – Researches have also 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 gum treatment, less success with dental implants, gum recession, mouth sores, facial wrinkling.