Tobacco Use and Periodontal Disease

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Understand the Dangers

The American Academy of Periodontology wants you to understand yet another good reason to quit: Tobacco use is harmful to oral health.

Time to Quit

Recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. In addition, following periodontal treatment or any type of oral surgery, 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 nonsmokers 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 gum 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.

Save Your Smile

Research shows that smokers lose more teeth than nonsmokers do. In fact, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 20 percent of people over age 65 who have never smoked are toothless, while a whopping 41.3 percent of daily smokers over age 65 are toothless.

In addition, research shows that current smokers don’t heal as well after periodontal treatment as former smokers or nonsmokers. In fact, smokers have a much greater risk of dental implant failure than do non-smokers. But these effects are reversible if the smokers kick the habit before beginning treatment.

Not Just Cigarettes

Other tobacco products are also harmful to your periodontal health. Smokeless tobacco also can cause gums to recede and increase the chance of losing the bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place.

And, a study of cigar and pipe smokers published in the January 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association revealed that cigar smokers experience tooth loss and alveolar bone loss at rates equivalent to those of cigarette smokers. Pipe smokers experience tooth loss at a rate similar to cigarette smokers.

Other Oral Problems

Researchers also have 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 periodontal treatment
  • Less success with dental implants
  • Gum recession
  • Mouth sores
  • Facial wrinkling

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