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The Ugly Truth About Smoking & Gum Disease

  • June 4, 2015

What would it take to get you to quit smoking? For Brett, even losing 16 teeth wasn’t enough – at first.

May 31 was World No Tobacco Day, and the World Health Organization highlighted the health risks associated with tobacco use. But you don’t have to look any further than your television screen these days for a steady stream of commercials all year long about smoking-related health risks.

Brett is just one former smoker of many who is featured in a series of commercials sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His story caught our attention because it highlights how smoking can lead to periodontal disease.

Smoking weakens your body’s immune system, which makes it more difficult to fight a gum infection. Once a smoker gets a gum infection, he/she is two to three times more likely to develop periodontitis, according to studies. Smokers have a higher prevalence of periodontal disease, and their periodontal disease tends to be more severe, says Williamsport periodontist Dr. David DiGiallorenzo.

Smokers like Brett in the CDC commercial also demonstrate the increased prevalence of partial or complete tooth loss, compared to non-smokers. In one commercial, Brett removes his dental restorations to reveal a mouth almost void of natural teeth.

Technological advancements in the periodontal field have ushered in treatments such as LANAP, and they’ve made dental implants a viable, permanent solution to tooth loss. But studies show there is impaired healing and poorer clinical results to nonsurgical and surgical periodontal therapy among smokers versus nonsmokers. The success rate of dental implants is compromised among smokers because once you have gum damage, smoking makes it more difficult for your gums to heal due to smoking’s ability to impair soft tissue and bone cell function.

We have found our ability to reduce bleeding when we probe the gums isn’t as successful among smokers as nonsmokers. We also have less reduction of probing depths, and we see smaller gains in attachment of the gums to the teeth roots.

Facing the Facts

The CDC and smoking cessation programs in many states have turned to graphic, even gruesome commercials such as the one that features Brett in hope that shock value might spur smokers to give up the unhealthy habit. The good news: it seems to be working.

Teens are smoking less, according to the CDC National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which analyzes health risk behaviors among high school students. The high school smoking rate has dropped to 15.7 percent, which is the lowest recorded level since the CDC implemented the survey in 1991.

Stop Smoking Now

The purpose of World No Tobacco Day is to encourage smokers to quit. Easier said than done, right? We take this difficult task seriously in our office by offering smoking cessation services. We also take your care a step further by educating you on the importance of taking a whole-body approach to your oral health. Combining smoking cessation with nutritional therapy can go a long way toward getting your mouth healthier so you can more effectively combat periodontal disease.

Please call today to schedule an appointment if you’re a smoker. We can conduct a thorough exam to evaluate the state of your teeth and gums. We also can develop a treatment plan to help you break your unhealthy habit and restore your oral health.