Smoking cigarettes can greatly affect the appearance of your smile by turning your teeth yellow or brown. However, the negative effects of smoking aren't just cosmetic. Long-term smoking can lead to more serious and possibly irreversible conditions, such as gum disease.
Smoking Increases the Chance of Gum Disease
In the United States, about 47.2 percent of adults aged 30 and over have periodontal disease, and 70.1 percent of adults aged 65 and older are affected. From these numbers, it may seem safe to assume that gum disease is a natural part of aging, but that is completely wrong. What makes these numbers so upsetting is that gum disease is usually preventable with proper care. However, there are some risk factors that increase your chance of getting gum disease, and smoking is on that list.
Gum disease is caused by bacteria in your mouth. Normally, you simply brush and floss to eliminate this bacteria. However, if you miss some bacteria, it leads to a build-up of plaque and tartar. Eventually, the plaque and tartar irritate your gums, making it easier for bacteria to hide, so even if you routinely brush and floss, you may miss some bacteria. Left untreated, the bacteria infects your gums, leading to gingivitis. Smoking increases your risk of gum disease because smoking inhibits your body's natural ability to fight infection. While smoking alone doesn't generally cause gum disease, it's like throwing gasoline on a fire.
Gum Disease Leads to Missing Teeth
Not surprisingly, the first signs of gum disease affect your gums. They may become red, swollen, tender, and they may bleed easily, especially when you brush or floss. At this stage, the gum disease is known as gingivitis, and with proper care and cleanings, you can reverse this condition. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, which has treatments to control the disease, but it isn't reversible. Untreated gingivitis doesn't always become periodontitis, but smoking can increase the chance.
When you have periodontitis, it doesn't just irritate your gums, it affects your jawbone too. The disease causes the jawbone to become weak, which increases the chance of loose teeth that fall out easily. Another way gum disease leads to tooth loss is that as your gum disease worsens, it creates pockets between your gums and teeth. This is an ideal place for bacteria, plaque and tartar to hide, which increases the risk of severe tooth decay at the root of your tooth.
Smokers Have Limited Options to Replace Missing Teeth
When you lose a tooth, you want to replace it as quickly as possible. Missing teeth can be embarrassing and make it difficult to chew and talk. However, if you won't put out that cigarette, your options may be limited. Dental implants are the best way to replace missing teeth because they function just like natural teeth and help stimulate your jawbone. Unfortunately, if you refuse to stop smoking, you're still at risk for gum disease, and it may be difficult to find a dentist who will agree to give you a dental implant.
If you do get a dental implant, and your gum disease returns because you didn't quit smoking, it increases the chance of dental implant failure, which is why most dentists won't suggest a dental implant if you are still smoking or still have gum disease. Most likely, they'll suggest dentures.
The best thing you can do for your mouth is to stop smoking and, if necessary, start treating your gum disease. Even if you already have missing teeth, if you quit smoking and reverse your gum disease or get it under control, a dental implant may still be an option. For more information about gum disease or dental implants, see a website such as http://www.nwidentist.com/.