Did you know that Half of Americans have Gum Disease? The technical term is called Periodontitis, a chronic condition that is characterized by inflammation, bleeding gums, and bone loss. Left untreated, periodontitis will unfortunately lead to tooth loss.
Gum disease: How common is it?
In a more recent study in the Journal of Dental Research, a study called the Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009-2010, it was estimated that 47.2 Americans have some form of periodontal disease whether it is mild, moderate, or severe. The incidence of Gum Disease in our senior citizens age 65 and older was 70.1 percent. What a staggering number! Many other factors can play a role in periodontitis too such as gender, race, medical conditions, and socioeconomic status as well.
Gum Disease and Its relationship to Smoking
Smoking is an irritant to the inside of our mouths. Smoking interferes with the body’s blood circulation to the gums and supportive structures of the teeth. Then the cells in our gums react by causing inflammation and a cascade of events that lead to gum disease.
Tobacco smoking has numerous effects on oral health. The links between smoking and lung cancer as well as other diseases have been well documented. There is a long list of complications that arise from smoking. Few examples include:
- Bad Breath
- Delayed Healing after dental procedures tooth extractions, surgical procedures
- Tobacco Staining and Discoloration
- Increased incidence of tartar and plaque on teeth
- Leukoplakia (white patchy areas that form inside the mouth)
- Increase in bone loss the upper and lower jaw
- Changes in the soft tissue and salivary glands inside the oral cavity
According to a study called A 10-Year Prospective Study of Tobacco Smoking and Periodontal Health, published by the Journal of Periodontology, patients that continued to smoke over a ten year period had suffered with more sites of gum disease as well as an increase in bone loss compared to those that did not smoke over the same period.
Pipe Smokers and Smokeless Tobacco… Safe from Gum Disease?
Unfortunately, pipe smokers and smokeless tobacco are still not safe for the mouth. Even though a pipe smoker does not inhale the smoke into their lungs. The irritants in pipe smoke are comparable to smoking.
Smokeless tobacco, also called snuff, is not a good alternative to smoking. It has been well documented that smokeless tobacco contains more than 20 chemicals known to increase the risk of oral cancer. Also with snuff being an irritant to the gums, there is higher incidence of root decay from root exposures and gum recession.
Stop Gum Disease by Smoking Cessation
The simplest way to avoid the effects of smoking, smokeless tobacco, and pipe smoking is to quit. A CPE (comprehensive periodontal evaluation) can be performed at your local dental office to assess the condition of the gums and the bone. Chronic smokers who have been smoking for many years may have an increase in severity of periodontitis compared to light or occasional smokers.
Resources to help quit smoking
The best advice I would say is to ask for help. Generally your primary care physician or dentist can help to guide you in your quest to be smoke free. A great place to start is Smokefree.gov
Smokefree is a great resource site that has support groups, quit plans, health professionals to begin the process to better overall health.
Dr Numpol Dejtiranukul is a Dentist in O’Fallon MO.