“Tobacco use contributes to periodontal disease yet masks the symptoms” (1) – Dr Justin Kang
That’s what makes Smokers Gum Disease so dangerous! The enemy destroying your oral health actually makes your gums “look” firm and pink, deceptively creating a mask that covers the disease so that you can see nothing wrong, In fact, when your dentist tells you that you are at risk for periodontitis, you may not believe that is so.
So, how does the disease “masking” work? In a non-smoker with periodontitis, gum redness and puffiness, accompanied by bleeding from brushing and flossing, serve to warn that disease conditions are present. However, the chemical nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow as well as thwart new blood vessels from generating. Blood carries healing and regenerating oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissues. Reduced blood flow inhibits healing, yet that same reduced blood supply prevents the gum redness so often seen in non-smokers as a symptom of gum disease (1). So, even though gums of non-smokers appear to be a healthy pink, they may be hiding an important sign of disease.
Gum redness in a non-smoker is a sign that inflammation is present. Inflammation begins in the gums when plague and tartar build up at the base of the teeth. The presence of these two elements causes small pockets to form just below the gum surface. Once these pockets form, they give place to even more plaque and tartar and the bacteria that comes along with them (2). In addition to causing gum disease, these bacteria can enter the bloodstream through tiny tears in the gums created by the bacterial infection, which can travel to all points in the body, eventually causing systemic disease, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
At How Much of a Risk of Smoker’s Gum Disease Are You?
1. Smokers have double the risk for gum disease as do non-smokers.
2. Smokers have quadruple the risk of advanced gum disease as do non-smokers.
3. The more cigarettes you have smoked, the greater the risk.
4. The longer you have smoked, the greater the risk (1).
Here’s the shocker for Smokers Gum Disease!
You don’t even have to be a smoker to have Smoker’s Gum Disease. If you live with a smoker and are constantly bombarded with side-stream smoke, you are at risk. The smoker’s tobacco is filtered by the tobacco itself and sometimes by a filter; on the other hand, the side stream smoke is not.
Moreover, all types of tobacco: tobacco smoked in pipes, chewing tobacco, even e-cigarettes cause the risk factors to rise.
1. Kang, J. (2020) “ Smoking and gum disease.” (2020). Retrieved May 26, 2020, from https://www.deardoctor.com/inside-the-magazine/issue-37/smoking-and-gum-disease/
2. “Periodontitis.” (2020, May 7). Retrieved May 25, 2020, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001059.htm