Everyone knows that smoking is devastatingly harmful to the body. Every time you inhale a cigarette you are breathing in thousands of noxious, lethal and potentially cancer producing chemicals into your lungs and body. Smoking will make your teeth yellow, cause bad breath and add to dental disease.
Smoking is linked to heart disease, stroke, lung disease and cancers and is one of the primary risk factors for periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease is the more aggressive and advanced form of gum disease that not only damages the gums but the supporting bone around the teeth too.
Smoking depletes the body of antioxidants, increases toxic load and creates high levels of free radicals and inflammation in the body. Free radicals oxidise, damage and prematurely age your cells.
Smoking dramatically alters the oral environment and many smokers do not have the warning symptoms of gum disease like bleeding gums. This is because smoking reduces the blood supply to the peripheral tissues including the gums. It depletes and starves the tissues of oxygen and alters the mouth environment to such a degree that really harmful bacteria breed much faster than the protective or so-called good bacteria.
Usually, when there is active gum disease the gum tissues look swollen, puffy and bright red, plus they bleed really easily. In a smoker, the gums look pale and thin, almost white with deep purple areas where the tissues are chronically inflamed and the gums do not bleed.
The effect of smoking on your health and on your gums creates a vicious cycle, where, as your health deteriorates so does your gum health. The gum health worsens increasing the flow of bacteria, inflammation and toxins from the gum tissues to the body. This increases your risk of gum disease-related health conditions.
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor – it contracts blood vessels which reduces the blood flow to the gum and bone. The decreased blood supply masks the signs of gum disease and decreases the body’s ability to combat infection.
Most of the damage to the gum and bone happens out of sight and as there are limited early warning signs smokers are often oblivious to the fact that they have a serious dental condition.
Nicotine also affects and alters the saliva leading to increased formation of the thicker mucous form of saliva at the expense of the thinner watery saliva which normally counteracts the effects of acid attack after eating. This may be one additional reason why heavy smokers are more prone to decay.
Smoking massively increases your risk of developing mouth cancer. It is the single biggest risk factor for oral cancers.
Dentists regularly check and screen patients for signs and symptoms of mouth cancer because if mouth cancer is not caught early enough the outcome can be devastating.
I encourage all smokers to have dental hygiene visit every 3 months and comprehensive dental check-ups including oral cancer screening every 6 months.
People who smoke are more likely to have gum disease because of smoking: