Smoking and gum disease

People who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. Smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don’t heal. Smoking also causes people to have more plaque and the gum disease to get worse more quickly than in non-smokers.

Smoking can disguise the damage-taking place to teeth and gums. Infected gums are usually red, puffy and bleed easily when brushed. Smokers’ gums tend not to present like this – they’re often pale and thin and do not bleed readily. So smokers may be unaware that there is a problem.

Smokers are more likely to:

  • Have more severe gum disease than non-smokers, with deeper periodontal pockets and more loss of gum and bone support
  • Suffer greater tooth loss
  • More likely to suffer a return of periodontal problems

Nicotine and gum disease

The nicotine in tobacco smoke is called a vaso-constrictor and it acts on blood vessels to contract them therefore reducing blood flow to the gum and bone. This in turn can mask the signs of gum disease and undermine the body’s ability to fight infection. Most of the signs of deterioration are deep and out of sight. X-rays taken of the teeth of smokers typically show that bone support has begun shrinking away from the tooth roots.

Nicotine also promotes the formation of a thicker “mucous” like saliva. This thicker “mucous” is less effective at counteracting the effects of acid attack after eating than the regular thinner saliva.

Gum disease and loose teeth

Smokers are more likely to have serious gum (periodontal) disease that can involve not just the gum but also the supporting bone and the membrane that holds the teeth in place. Smoking can hide the signs of gum disease for years and the condition can be very advanced before a smoker notices any damage. Slight infections around the edges of the gums are common and easily treated, but smoking allows the condition to progress more deeply and seriously. Effective plaque removal through careful brushing and cleaning between the teeth tends to slow down the deterioration, but smokers often have reduced sensation in their mouths and it is difficult to detect and remove all the plaque at the gum margins.

Oral cancer

Besides the damage to teeth and gums that smoking can cause, it remains the single biggest risk factor in developing oral cancer.

Quit smoking

There are many good reasons to stop smoking.

  • Improvements to your general health
  • Better response to periodontal treatment
  • Periodontal problems are less likely to occur

If you are a smoker and concerned about gum disease please call us on 020 7247 7400 to speak with our friendly team or fill out our contact form.