Tobacco’s Ties To Gum Disease
Your oral health is important to us.
That’s probably not big news. We are a dentist office, after all.
You may not realize some of the things we do to keep track of how healthy your mouth is, however.
When you visit us for a cleaning and examination, we perform a thorough gum evaluation. We may take measurements of your gum tissue. This can help us identify gum recession, which is one of the symptoms of advanced gum disease.
Over the years, we have noticed that patients who smoke and patients who use various types of smokeless tobacco are more likely to have gum disease.
We don’t think that’s just a coincidence.
Today, we want to explain why tobacco is bad for your oral health, and specifically for your gums. We also want you to know that our team at Hubbard & Leath Dental is ready to treat periodontal disease if you should ever need this service.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease occurs when the tissue of your gums become infected. These infections are the result of bacteria that live inside your mouth.
In the early stages, your gums can appear red or swollen, and you may notice that your gums bleed when you are brushing and flossing your teeth. The early form of gum disease is called gingivitis.
We will discuss treatment options later. For now, let’s assume you ignore the signs of gingivitis, and you end up with advanced gum disease.
This is called periodontitis, and its symptoms include:
• Receding gums
• Painful, sore gums
• Constant bad breath
• Teeth that feel loose
Gum disease is the top cause of tooth loss in the United States. As the disease progresses, your gums become less secure around your teeth. At the same time, the infection can start to attack the bone that holds your teeth in place.
Trust us when we say, you don’t want your gums to get to this point.
How Does Tobacco Affect Gum Disease?
Several things can increase your odds of developing gum disease. Genetics (family history) is a factor. Diabetes is a factor. You are more likely to develop gum disease if you are a female going through puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.
But one of the biggest contributors to gum disease is something that you can control. It’s tobacco use.
If it was up to dentists and hygienists, no one would ever smoke, chew, or dip. We had seen up close what tobacco use does to your oral health (to say nothing of the impact it has on your overall health).
In fact, the American Dental Hygienists Association put together a short document to educate the public about tobacco and oral hygiene.
The ADHA pointed out that smoking half a pack of cigarettes per day makes you three times more likely to develop periodontitis than a nonsmoker. Pack-and-a-half-daily smokers are six times more likely to have periodontitis.
On top of that, smoking (cigarettes, cigars, or pipes) make you more likely to suffer from gum recession, bone loss, and lost teeth when compared to nonsmokers.
We don’t want to leave out smokeless tobacco users. The ADHA noted in its report that up to 27 percent people who chew and dip tobacco have signs of gum recession and bone loss. Smokeless tobacco also increases your odds of developing leukoplakia, which are white patches that appear on soft tissue where you hold your tobacco in your mouth.
From both a dental and medical perspective, there is no benefit to using tobacco. If you are a user who would like to quit, we know it can be difficult.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has links to resources that may be able to help.
If we notice signs of gum disease, we will be sure to let you know. If you see symptoms between your routine dental visits, please tell us so we can help as soon as possible.
When we address the problem early, the treatment is simpler. With gingivitis, you may just need to improve your brushing and flossing habits.
For more advanced cases, we may recommend scaling and root planing. This is a deep cleaning to remove bacteria, plaque, and tartar buildup from around the roots of your teeth.
No matter what stage your gum disease has reached, Hubbard & Leath Dental wants to help you get your mouth back to being healthy. Avoiding tobacco is a big help in that regard.