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Smoking and Periodontal Disease

by Linda McGuire RDH


Most people are aware of the fact that smoking causes cancer and heart disease, but are not aware of the impacts that smoking has on your oral health.  Smoking can cause severe periodontal disease like shown in the photo below.

smoking and perio

Smoking causes dry mouth, which can lead to periodontal disease.  By smoking you reduce the amount of saliva your body produces.  Saliva is one of the things that protects your teeth from bacteria.  Plaque contains bacteria, and when the saliva is not functioning properly to wash the bacteria from the teeth, your risk for infection increases.  When bacteria is present in the mouth, the bone begins to disintegrate.  In addition, smoking causes the body’s immune system to reduce in function, making the body susceptible to disease.  The body is unable to fight off infection, therefore leading to the greater possibility of periodontal disease.  If the disease gets severe enough, you may lose teeth.  Once you have periodontal disease, smoking causes treatment of that to be less likely to be successful.

What makes you more likely to develop periodontal disease?

  • Smoking itself makes you twice as likely to develop disease
  • The more you smoke, the more at risk you are
  • The longer you have smoked, the more at risk you are
  • Treatments are less likely to work for tobacco users

Signs of periodontal disease

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth

It’s not only smoking that makes you more likely to develop periodontal disease and lose teeth. Smokeless tobacco is just as harmful to your teeth and gums.  In addition, mouth cancer can develop from smoking or using smokeless tobacco products.  Oral cancers are sometimes very difficult to treat or to catch at an early stage, and more often fatal than other cancers.  During your dental exam, Dr. Bentz will check your soft tissues for any signs of abnormality. This is done at every appointment by the hygienist and Dr. Bentz in order to make sure your mouth is healthy and cancer free.  Make sure you are honest with your dentist about smoking or smokeless tobacco use! 

Call us today for an appointment and oral cancer screening!

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