As you probably already know, tobacco use is linked with many serious illnesses such as cancer, lung disease, as well as numerous other health problems. What you may not know is tobacco users also are at increased risk for periodontal disease. In fact, recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease.
How Tobacco Use Affects Your Oral Health
Whether you smoke, dip or chew tobacco, you are more likely to have periodontal disease - and to have it more severely - than those who do not use any form of tobacco.
- Smokers - As a smoker, you are more likely than non-smokers to have calculus (tartar) form on your teeth, have deeper pockets between your teeth and gums, and lose more of the bone and tissue that support your teeth. If calculus is not removed during a professional cleaning, and it remains below your gumline, 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 tissue and supporting bone. As a result, the gums more eventually shrink away from the teeth making them look longer. Without support, your teeth may become loose, painful and even fall out. Research shows that there is an 8 times higher prevalence for having periodontal disease and losing teeth in smokers versus non-smokers.
- Smokeless Tobacco Users - As a user of smokeless tobacco, your gums are more likely to recede, and you have a greater chance of losing the bone and fibers that hold your teeth in your mouth. If your gums recede to the point where the tooth roots are exposed, your teeth may become susceptible to root decay or hot/cold sensitivities (not to mention the fact that your chances of developing oral cancer increase with smokeless tobacco use.
These problems, associated with tobacco use of any kind, are caused by the many chemicals, such as nicotine and tar, present in the tobacco itself. These chemicals have harmful effects on the periodontal tissues. They cause an increase in the accumulation of plaque and calculus (tartar) that can irritate your gums and lead to infection. Following periodontal treatment or any type of oral surgery, the chemicals in tobacco can also slow down the healing process and make the treatment results less predictable.
Researchers also are finding many of the following problems occur more often in patients who use tobacco:
- Oral cancer
- Bad breath
- Stained teeth
- Tooth loss
- Bone loss
- Loss of taste and smell
- Less success with periodontal treatment
- Less success with dental implants
- Gum recession
- Mouth sores