02 Sep 2020
6 min read
By Dr. Azim Malik
Specialist Periodontist and Implant Surgeon
Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to gum disease.
Among the many problems with smoking is that smokers with gum disease often don’t bleed, which is one of the usual telltale warning signs for gum disease.
This is because nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which restricts the blood supply to the mouth.
So you’re less likely to know that you have gum disease.
Smoking also encourages the worst kind of bacteria.
If you're a smoker and you have gum disease, you have worse outcomes.
The main factor is genetics but, with gum disease, smoking is a major risk factor.
A risk factor increases your risk of having something.
It's a bit like lung cancer in that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer but it increases your risk of having lung cancer.
So if someone's been smoking for the past 10 years, and then they stop, then 10 years’ worth of damage has already been done.
The bacterial composition in their mouth has changed over the period that they've been smoking and the bacteria has nicely settled in the mouth.
But, although some damage has already been done, quitting smoking will help patients to achieve better outcomes.
In terms of gum disease, I would say about 95% of my patients have given up smoking and 5%-10% have decreased the amount of smoking they do.
My message to smokers is to stop or cut down immediately.
Also, avoid vaping because vaping also has nicotine in it and studies on vaping are inconclusive at the moment.
You can arrange a programme to quit smoking with your local pharmacist, your GP or your dentist.
Set a quit date and do everything you can to quit – to improve your overall health as well as your oral health.
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