Gum Disease And Smoking

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Gum disease is caused when bacteria in the mouth forms plaque and tartar.  If plaque and tartar remain on the teeth for too long, it can cause inflammation of the gums.  A mild form of gum disease is called gingivitis.  Gingivitis is fairly easy to treat by brushing, flossing, and receiving dental cleanings on a regular basis.


Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease.  If gingivitis is left untreated it will evolve into periodontitis.  In this form of gum disease, the gums will start to pull away from the teeth and form pockets that get infected.  The bone and tissue that hold teeth in place start to break down, and it can result in teeth falling out or needing to be extracted. 

Treatment of Periodontitis

When treating periodontitis, the goal is to control the infection.  The first method that is attempted is a deep cleaning of the teeth.  If that is unsuccessful, medication is prescribed.  If deep cleaning and medication don't work, then gum surgery will be required.

A common type of gum surgery is called "flap surgery."  In this surgery, the periodontist will lift back the gums, remove the tartar deposits in the pockets and stitch the gum back up around the tooth.  As the gum heals, it also tightens around the tooth. 

If the disease and infection have gotten to the bone, then a bone graft may be required.  This involves placing bone where the it has been lost, in hopes that bone growth will occur.

Smoking and Periodontitis

A person who smokes is more likely to get a type of gum disease.  The more cigarettes a person smokes, the greater the risk of disease.  The severity of gum disease also increases with the number of cigarettes a person smokes. 

Not only is a smoker more likely to get periodontitis than a non-smoker, but the risk of gum recession also increases in smokers.  They are more likely to lose their teeth and at greater risk for dental implants to fail.  In fact, they are overall less likely to have successful treatment and will typically have poorer results.  Nicotine tends to interfere with healing processes.

A person who smokes might miss a very common symptom of gum disease.  Since nicotine constricts blood vessels, a smoker might not experience bloody gums like other people.  Other symptoms to look for are red, swollen and tender gums, consistent bad breath, gums that pull away from the teeth, pus in the mouth, and loose teeth. 

If a smoker is diagnosed with periodontitis, the first step to treating it is to stop smoking. This will stabilize the condition, but it will not reverse the situation.  The dentist, hygienist or physician are equipped to help with this if the patient is willing. For more information, visit or a similar website.