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Smoking, Gum Disease and Your Oral Health

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You’ve heard about the countless health problems that come with smoking cigarettes, from an increased risk of lung disease and cancer to heart disease and stroke. But taking a step back, there’s another area of your health that smoking can easily harm — that is, your gum health.

The Negative Effects Smoking Has on Gums

Frequently turning to cigarettes can cause a plethora of negative side effects on your mouth, gums and teeth, says Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, a board-certified periodontal surgeon.

“Smoking is bad overall for your health due to the many chemicals and carcinogens that cigarettes contain,” says Neil Gajjar, DDS, president of the Academy of General Dentistry. A study suggests that smoking inhibits gum health by altering plaque which may lead to more pathogenic bacteria. The chemicals in smoke can also inhibit immune response, making it harder for the body to fight back against gum disease once it starts.

The Best Way to Prevent and Treat Gum Problems

Aside from not smoking at all, quitting smoking as soon as you can is the best way to minimize the risk of developing these health concerns. According to Vadivel. “Prevention is best; prevention is better than a cure.”

Of course, regularly seeing a dentist and getting frequent cleanings (along with good at-home oral hygiene) will assist in avoiding these issues, too. Dentists can also keep a close eye on any side effects. “Dentists get concerned when they see inflamed gingiva, bone loss, and lesions on the soft tissues” says Gajjar.

Outside of the office, good oral care comes down to regular brushing and flossing. Finally, opt for a oral irrigator or individual flossing tools and picks to take your oral care to the next level.

Keep in mind, when your gums reach a certain level of deterioration, you may need more serious treatments, sometimes even surgery. “When you have advanced gum disease from smoking or your gum disease is not controllable just from the nonsurgical deep cleaning, you have several other treatment options available,” says Vadivel. “At this time, after the deep cleaning, more than likely you will be referred to a periodontist for treatment.”

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