Smoking has long been recognised as a major risk factor for a plethora of health issues, including lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems. In Australia, tobacco smoking remains a leading preventable cause of death and illness. It accounts for nearly 20,500 annual deaths, accounting for approximately 13% of all mortality cases. Moreover, in 2018, smoking contributed to 8.6% of the overall disease burden in the country.
However, one often overlooked consequence of smoking is its detrimental impact on oral health, particularly its strong association with gum disease. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a serious condition that affects the gums and can lead to severe consequences if left untreated. In this blog, we will explore the connection between smoking and gum disease and emphasise the importance of quitting smoking for maintaining optimal oral health.
Understanding Gum Disease
Gum disease is a progressive condition that starts with the inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis. If not addressed early, it can advance to periodontitis, where the infection spreads to the supporting structures of the teeth, including the bone. The disease is primarily caused by bacterial plaque that accumulates on the teeth and around the gum line. Normally, the body’s immune system responds to this plaque, fighting off the bacteria and keeping the gums healthy. However, smoking weakens the immune system, making it less effective in combating infections, including those in the gums.
Link between Smoking and Oral Health: Effects of Smoking on Oral Health
The connection between smoking and oral health is profound, with tobacco use causing various harmful effects on the mouth and surrounding tissues. Smoking is a significant risk factor that exacerbates gum disease in several ways:
- Reduced Blood Flow
Smoking constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the gums. This diminishes the delivery of essential nutrients and oxygen to the tissues, impairing their ability to heal and fight off infections.
- Weakened Immune Response
Smoking weakens the immune system, making it less effective in combating bacterial infections. As a result, smokers are more susceptible to gum disease and experience slower healing when it occurs.
- Oral Cancer
Smoking poses a substantial risk for oral cancer, as the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage mouth cells, giving rise to cancerous growths on the lips, tongue, throat, and gums.
Nicotine and tar present in tobacco leads to significant tooth discolouration. These substances have a staining effect on the teeth, causing them to lose their natural whiteness. Over time, accumulating these stains can result in a noticeable change in tooth colour.
How to treat gum disease?
With the advancement in science, there are several surgical and non-surgical procedures available to treat gum diseases these days. But before going for a procedure, you must consider factors such as:
- The stage of gum disease
- Your current oral health
- Your current general health
- Your ability to adhere to post-treatment oral hygiene recommendations
Non-Surgical Treatments for Gum Disease
If you are at an early-stage gum disease, your dentist might ask you to consider non-surgical treatments. Here are the different types of non-surgical treatments for gum disease to consider:
- Dental Prophylaxis
Dental prophylaxis is a procedure used to protect your teeth and stop gum disease. It includes a comprehensive examination of your mouth and teeth and a thorough cleaning with an ultrasonic scaler, pick, or other equipment to remove tartar, plaque, and calcifications.
- Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing eliminate plaque and tartar from the surface of your roots below the gum line. A dentist will thoroughly clean your teeth and smooth away any rough places on the roots. This reduces the chances of bacteria and plaque reattaching your teeth.
- Antibiotic Treatments
Antibiotics are given alongside other gum disease treatments to reduce bacteria before and after periodontal procedures. Antibiotics come in various forms, such as oral antibiotics and topical gels directly applied to the gum pockets. With antibiotics, the bacteria is under control and helps to manage gum disease.
Surgical Treatments for Gum Disease
- Flap Surgery / Pocket Reduction Surgery
Flap surgery is a surgical intervention for advanced gum disease. In this procedure, dentists lift your gums to access the root surfaces and thoroughly clean bacteria, tartar, and damaged tissues. Dentists later reposition the gums to promote healing, reduce pocket depth, and improve gum health.
- Guided Tissue Regeneration
Gum disease can lead to spaces between the tooth root and bone. During a guided tissue regeneration, your dentist will place a membrane in the affected area. This membrane prevents the gum tissue from filling the gap, allowing the body to regenerate bone around the tooth and restore its stability.
- Bone Grafting
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure used to treat advanced gum disease. The graft material stimulates bone growth, stabilises teeth, prevents further loss, and aids in dental implant placement, improving oral health and smile aesthetics.
Quit Smoking for Healthier Gums
Quitting smoking is crucial to achieve healthier gums and improve your overall oral health. Here’s how giving up smoking can positively impact your gums:
- Reduces Inflammation
Smoking contributes to gum inflammation and increases the risk of gum disease. When you quit smoking, the harmful chemicals and toxins are eliminated, allowing your gums to heal and reducing inflammation, preventing further damage.
- Improves Blood Flow
Smoking restricts blood flow to the gums and deprives the gums of essential nutrients and oxygen. However, blood circulation improves after quitting, promoting healthier gum tissue and faster healing.
- Lowers Risk of Gum Disease
Quitting smoking is a critical step in reducing the risk of gum disease. By doing so, you significantly lower the chances of developing gum disease.
- Better Response to Dental Treatments
Once you quit smoking, your gums respond more positively to dental procedures like scaling and root planing. The healing process accelerates, decreasing the risk of complications and recurrent gum disease.
- Improves Overall Health
By quitting smoking, you not only improve your oral health but also enhance your overall well-being. Quitting reduces the risk of various smoking-related diseases, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory problems, and diabetes.
Smoking is a significant risk factor for gum disease, causing inflammation, reduced blood flow, delayed healing, and a weakened immune response. However, by quitting, your gums have a chance to heal, improve blood circulation and improve your overall immunity. If you or someone you know smokes and is concerned about gum disease, seek guidance from a dental professional and explore options for quitting smoking.
Improve your gum health by scheduling an oral screening appointment with Alpha Dental in Perth. Our experienced dental professionals will thoroughly evaluate your oral health, check for gum disease, tooth decay, and provide other general dental care services. We strive to provide a comfortable experience with advanced equipment and compassionate care. Stay proactive in maintaining your oral health and receive personalised recommendations by booking an appointment with Alpha Dental today.