Metro Dental Health
11150 Fairfax Boulevard
Fairfax, VA 22030
Metro Dental Health
2112 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Smoking and Gum Disease
One often-overlooked health issue that smoking can have is on your gums. If you're a smoker, you may begin to notice several of the dental problems discussed below.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Gum disease (or periodontal disease) starts with dental plaque. Dental plaque is made of bacteria and microorganisms that harm your teeth and gums. Plaque starts to build up between your teeth and gums, and if it never gets cleaned, it will eventually turn into tartar. As it progresses, plaque and tartar can cause an infection and inflammation of your gingival margin. This condition is called gingivitis, and is the first step of gum disease.
If you fail to treat gingivitis early, periodontal pockets start to form in the space between your teeth and gums. Essentially your gums begin to pull away from your teeth. The separation isn't visible to the naked eye, and occurs after the infection has started to destroy the bone that holds your teeth in place (alveolar bone). Once the alveolar bone starts to break down, the gum disease has progressed to the periodontitis stage.
It is much easier to treat gingivitis than periodontitis. If you leave the gum disease untreated and allow it to keep progressing, your teeth will begin to start moving around and eventually fall out because the supporting bone that holds them in place is gone.
How Smoking Affects Your Gums
Smoking doesn't directly cause gum disease. You have to already have some level of infection from plaque or tartar. However, smoking makes existing gingivitis or periodontitis worse, because
Smoking reduces saliva production. When your saliva production decreases, you have one less defense mechanism against plaque, tartar, and harmful bacteria.
Smoking weakens your immune system, which makes it harder to fight infections from gum disease. People who smoke have compressed blood vessels. When the vessels are compressed, it reduces the blood flow so less oxygen, nutrients, and white blood cells are able to reach your gums and fight infections.
Smoking After Being Treated For Gum Disease
Periodontal treatments such as deep cleaning involve removing tartar, plaque, and infected root surface under the gums and in the pockets made by the infection. After all of the infection has been removed, the gums need time to heal properly. Smoking can halt that healing process.
Quitting smoking is a great decision for your overall health. Start living a healthier life, free of gum disease and infection.