What Smoking Does – A Dental Point Of View

added on: November 7, 2011

Many smokers are unaware of the numerous oral health issues when it comes to tobacco use. For example, research shows that smokers lose more teeth than nonsmokers. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, while only about 20% of people over 65 who’ve never smoked are toothless, over 41% of smokers over 65 are toothless.

Studies also show that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. Plus, it’s no surprise that following periodontal treatment or oral surgery, patients who smoke typically have longer healing times and treatment results are less predictable.

Too, smokers have greater increase for periodontal disease versus nonsmokers. One reason is increased susceptibility to calculus, which is the plaque that hardens on teeth and can only be removed during a cleaning. If not removed, the bacteria in calculus can destroy gum tissue and cause gums to pull away from the teeth.

When this happens, pockets form and fill with disease-causing bacteria. As gum disease progresses, deeper pockets between teeth and gums fill with bacteria that destroy tissue and supporting bone. As a result, the gums may pull away from the teeth, making them look long. Eventually, the teeth become loose and require removal.

Other tobacco products are also harmful to your periodontal health. Smokeless tobacco can cause gums to recede and increase the chance of losing the bone and fibers that hold teeth in place. Cigar and pipe smokers have it just as risky. The Journal of the American Dental Association revealed that cigar smokers experience tooth and bone loss at rates equal to those of cigarette smokers. Pipe smokers have tooth loss at a pace similar to that of cigarette smokers.

Time after time, research has shown the following occurs more often in those who use tobacco: oral cancer; bad breath; stained teeth, tooth loss; loss of taste; gum recession; mouth sores; and facial wrinkling.

I’m not about to lecture people when it comes to quitting smoking. However, I hope they realize it takes a terrible toll on their oral health, as with most other parts of their bodies.

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Dr. Ban R. Barbat

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