Every adult should know that smoking is directly linked to health threats such as heart disease and cancer. However, you may not realize that the smoke you inhale when you puff on a cigarette, cigar or pipe can be harmful long before it gets deep into your body. Medical science has in fact established a definite link between the use of tobacco products and gum disease.

Understanding Gum Disease

Much attention is given to the proper care of teeth, often to the point of neglecting the gums. However, gum disease can be more insidious than tooth decay. These are some of the symptoms indicating that something is wrong with your gums:

  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Loose teeth

Gum disease starts with the development of plaque that accumulates where the teeth and gums meet, and which contains bacteria and harmful microorganisms. The result of excessive plaque is an infection to the gums known as gingivitis. If not treated, gingivitis will cause the teeth and the gums to separate and will eventually damage the underlying bone. At this stage, the condition is known as periodontitis.

The most important part of any gum therapy procedure is the removal of the plaque that has accumulated. This can be accomplished through a simple cleaning by a dental specialist or, if necessary, a deep cleaning that involves the rigorous scraping away of the material above and below the gum line. Periodontitis may require dental surgery, possibly even grafting if the bone has been hopelessly damaged by the disease. Gingivitis is easier to treat than periodontitis due to the fact that the bone has no chance of regeneration once it has been seriously damaged.

The best way to prevent gum disease is by maintaining good oral hygiene, which includes twice-day brushings for two minutes each, daily flossing, and regular visits to the dentist. Another way to prevent gum disease is the avoidance of smoking.

The Effects of Smoking on the Gums

There is no evidence that the use of tobacco products directly causes gum disease. However, it can worsen the situation created by the accumulation of plaque or tarter. The effects come from how smoking affects other parts of the mouth or the body in general.

Smoking dries the mouth by reducing the production of saliva, which naturally cleans away plaque. Saliva also contains protective antibodies, and a decrease in its amount can lead to an increase in the bacteria associated with gum disease. Another effect of smoking is a reduction in the flow of blood that itself contains the white cells that naturally resist the same bacteria. Those who have developed gum disease can actually reduce their chances of a full recovery by continuing to smoke after they have received periodontal treatment.

If you want to protect your gums, you need to practice good oral hygiene. You also need to quit smoking, or never take it up in the first place. More information on the effects of smoking on gums can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html.

If you have any questions or concerns about how to protect your mouth against gum disease, call our dentist in Springfield, VA, to learn more.

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