Smoking & Gum Disease

It has been known for some time that smoking has harmful effects on our general health.  Smoking is also linked with the development of white patches on the oral mucosa and oral cancer.  Extensive research has been done on the effects of smoking on the oral tissues over many years.

Gum disease affects more than 90% of the population to varying degrees at some stage.  Smokers however, have significantly worse gum disease than nonsmokers and loose teeth at a greater rate.  Smokers are at a 5-7 times greater risk of periodontal disease than nonsmokers.  Numerous dental studies have shown that smokers:

  • Have more severe gum disease than non-smokers
  • Have greater periodontal pockets and more loss of gum and bone support
  • Have greater tooth loss and this tends to occur at a younger age
  • Respond less well to all types of periodontal treatment
  • Are more likely to suffer recurrent periodontal problems.

Smokers are also more likely to have other oral health problems such as:

  • Oral cancer
  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Less success with dental implant treatment
  • More gum recession

Unfortunately smoking tends to disguise the superficial signs and symptoms of active gum disease such as inflammation and bleeding on cleaning.  Smoking will also compromise the success of any periodontal treatment as the healing of the gum tissues is impaired.

A recent article in the NZ Herald reported a study that found that heavy cannabis smoking was also a major cause of gum disease.  The investigation followed 1000 people born in Dunedin between 1972-1973 and found that heavy cannabis use was responsible for more than one third of the new cases of gum disease by age 32.  They stated that In the mouth, there is a fine balance between tissue destruction and tissue healing and the various toxins in cannabis smoke disrupt that.

However, with treatment and cessation of smoking the health of the periodontal tissues may be re-established.