You are probably well-aware of the impact that your smoking habit has on your lungs and your overall health. However, do you know what it can do to your smile? Yellow teeth and bad breath are the least of your problems. In fact, there is a far more serious oral health issue that you are at risk for when you choose to light up every day – gum disease!
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States. Not only can gum disease destroy your gum tissues and underlying bone, but this oral infection can also enter your bloodstream and affect your overall health. Gum disease has been linked to heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and premature birth.
The Biggest Problem with Smoking and Gum Disease
Not only are you at higher risk for periodontal disease if you smoke, but you may not even realize you have it until it’s too late. When caught early, gum disease is highly treatable. Early signs of gum disease include red, puffy and bleeding gums. However, for a smoker, the gums remain thin, pale and don’t bleed easily. In other words, your smoking habit masks the critical warning signs of gum disease.
The nicotine found in tobacco smoke is considered a vaso-constrictor, which means it reduces blood flow to the oral tissues and bone, thus keeping the gums from showing outward signs of infection. For some, it may be years before gum disease is properly detected. In addition, smoking will decrease your body’s natural ability to fight off infection, including the infections within your mouth!
The damage doesn’t stop there. Nicotine makes your saliva thicker, which inhibits its ability to neutralize acids in your mouth and rinse away harmful bacteria. In addition, there are certain chemicals in tobacco smoke that combine with plaque bacteria in your mouth to create a high risk environment for bad breath, decay and gum disease. In fact, you’re at double the risk for gum disease compared to a non-smoker. And the longer you smoke, the more vulnerable you are to this serious oral health condition.
Ready to kick your smoking habit? The New Year is a great time to start. Remember that if you are a regular tobacco user, we may want to see you more often. Call Avalon Dental Group today to schedule your routine checkup or periodontal disease evaluation.