Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Smoking and the Periodontal Risk

Tobacco Use vs. Your Oral Health

Understand the Dangers
Surprising as it may sound, many smokers are not aware of the dangers of tobacco use.  This month, in connection with the Great American Smokeout, Dr. Ken Versman and Dr. Doug Heller of Periodontal Associates in the Denver Aurora, CO  area are focusing on getting the facts out about tobacco use and the effect it has on your  teeth, gums and overall oral health. Believe it or not, just 29 percent of smokers say they believe themselves to be at an above-average risk for heart attack compared with their nonsmoking peers, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Interestingly, while information about the associated medical problems smokers are at risk for – such as lung disease, heart disease, cancer and even low-birth-weight babies – is widely available, many smokers seem to have tuned it out.
Here is another risk that Drs. Versman and Heller want you to hear loud and clear: Tobacco use is harmful to your oral health.

The Periodontal Connection

In conjunction with the American Academy of Periodontology, Dr. Ken Versman and Dr. Doug Heller of Periodontal Associates in Denver-Aurora, CO, hope to help educate the public about one specific threat to smokers – periodontal disease. According to Dr. Doug Heller:

 "Seventy to seventy-five percent of our adult periodontic patients tend to be smokers or tobacco users. There is a strong correlation between smoking and adult periodontitis."

In fact, recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. It has been found that following periodontal treatment or any type of oral surgery, the chemicals in tobacco cause the healing process to slow down and make the treatment results less predictable.

You may be wondering just how smoking increases the risk for periodontal disease. It's simple. As a smoker, you are more likely to have the following problems:
  • Calculus – plaque that hardens on your teeth and can only be removed during a professional cleaning
  • Deep pockets between your teeth and gums
  • Loss of the bone and tissue that support your teeth
If the calculus is not removed during a professional cleaning, and it remains below your gum line, the bacteria in the calculus can destroy your gum tissue and cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. When this happens, periodontal pockets form and fill with disease-causing bacteria.
If left untreated, periodontal disease will inevitabley progress. The pockets between your teeth and gums can grow deeper, allowing in more bacteria that destroy tissue and supporting bone. As a result, the gums may shrink away from the teeth making them look longer. Without treatment, your teeth may become loose, painful, need to be extracted or even fall out.

You Can Save Your Smile

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 20 percent of people over age 65 who have never smoked are toothless, compared to a whopping 41.3 percent of daily smokers over age 65 are toothless.
In addition, research shows that current smokers don't heal as well after periodontal treatment as former smokers or nonsmokers. The good news: these effects are reversible if the smokers kick the habit before beginning treatment!

Not Just Cigarettes

It's not just cigarettes that are the smoking gun. Other tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, are also harmful to your oral health. Chewing tobacco also causes gums to recede and increase the chances of bone and fiber loss - the same bones and fiber that hold your teeth in place. Cigar and pipe smokers are at risk too. According to the ADA, cigar and pipe smokers experience tooth loss and alveolar bone loss at rates equivalent to those of cigarette smokers.

Need More Reasons to Quit?

Researches also have found that the following problems occur more often in people who smoke or use tobacco products:
  • Oral cancer
  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Bone loss
  • Loss of taste
  • Less success with periodontal treatment
  • Less success with dental implants
  • Gum recession
  • Mouth sores
  • Facial wrinkling
There's No Better Time
November 18th marks the 35th annual Great American Smokeout.  The American Cancer Society encourages all smokers to take a day off, and possibly quit smoking for good. By abstaining from smoking that one day, smokers will be taking an important first step to improving their health. Dr. Ken Versman and Dr. Doug Heller of Periodontal Associates in Denver/Aurora, CO, encourage you to visit or call the American Cancer Society at  1-800-ACS-2345.  For information about periodontal (gum) disease, please visit our website at where you will find a helpful Visual Guide, Gum Disease Self Evaluation, the Seven Danger Signs of Gum Disease and more. To schedule an appointment to evaluate your oral health and possible treatment options, contact us via the web, email or call (303)755-4500 in the Denver Metro area.

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