5 Things Smokers Need to Know About Periodontitis

by Milton Hayes

Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease. It attacks not only your gum tissue, but also the ligaments and bones that surround your teeth. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing periodontitis, so here are a few things you need to know, since you have a heightened risk.

What causes periodontitis?

If plaque isn't removed quickly through brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar, which can only be removed at your dentist's office. This tartar contains bacteria that irritates your gum and causes a minor form of gum disease called gingivitis. Gingivitis only affects the gums, not the deeper structures inside your mouth. Untreated gingivitis will eventually turn into periodontitis.

What are the signs of periodontitis?

If you have periodontitis, your gums will be red and swollen. They will bleed after you brush or floss your teeth. Your teeth may even feel loose, and in severe cases, they will fall out. Smoking decreases the severity of your symptoms, so even minor swelling or bleeding of the gums could be a sign of severe periodontitis. If you notice even mild symptoms, you need to see your dentist.

Why does smoking increase your risk?

Smokers are up to 6 times more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers. This happens for a couple of reasons. The first is that smoking decreases the amount of saliva your mouth produces. This is a problem because saliva helps to wash plaque off of your teeth before it can turn into tartar.

The second problem is that smoking decreases the blood flow in your gums, which makes them heal more slowly. This allows minor gum irritation to turn into severe gum disease.

Will quitting help protect your gums?

If you can quit smoking, your risk of developing periodontitis won't decrease immediately, but over time, your risk will decrease significantly. If you quit, within 11 years you will have the same risk of periodontal disease as someone who has never smoked. 

How can your dentist help?

Even if you think your gums look healthy, you should still see your dentist regularly. Getting your teeth professionally cleaned is even more important for smokers than for non-smokers because of the risk of periodontitis. Your dentist will also check your mouth for signs of periodontitis that you might not notice. 

Periodontitis is a severe type of gum disease, and smokers are more likely to suffer from it. If you're a current smoker, make an appointment with a clinic such as Pendle Hill Family Dental Clinic to get your gums checked.