June 17, 2022
As a tobacco smoker, a person is most likely used to hearing about the possible health consequences of continuing with the habit. But when it comes to their oral health, they may not have been informed about the potential impact on their gums. Read on to learn about the link between smoking and periodontal disease that could eventually lead to tooth loss, according to your implant dentist in McComb.
What’s the Connection?
Smokers have more severe gum disease than nonsmokers with deeper pockets, greater incidence of tooth loss, and a lesser response to periodontal treatment. They also have an increased risk of disease reoccurrence, thought to be due to a reduction in gingival blood flow, impaired white cell function, and wound healing, as well as increased production of inflammatory substances (cytokines) that enhance tissue breakdown.
How Can Gum Disease “Sneak Up” on a Smoker?
Smoking masks the obvious sign of gum disease – bleeding. This means smokers can be unaware of periodontal problems. The nicotine in tobacco smoke is called a vasoconstrictor and it acts on blood vessels to contract them and reduce blood flow to the gum and bone.
This in turn can make the signs of gum disease less obvious 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 mucus which is less effective at counteracting the effects of acid attack after eating than normal thinner saliva, leading to subtle wear over time.
Loose Teeth Eventually Become a Problem
Smokers are more likely to have serious gum disease that can involve not just the gums but also the supporting bone and the membrane that holds the teeth in place. As referenced earlier, 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 significantly. Though effective plaque removal through careful brushing and cleaning between the teeth tends to slow down the deterioration, smokers often have reduced sensation in their mouths, and it is difficult to detect and remove all the plaque at the gum margins.
While there are many forms of tobacco, there is no “safe” method of use. This post focused on the progression of oral health problems via smoking and also applies to vaping, but regardless of the method, it’s only a matter of time before issues begin to take hold. While your dentist is not the source to help you kick a tobacco habit, they are certainly qualified to scan and treat you for gum disease – via periodontal therapy – and other oral health concerns you may be facing.
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