3 Ways By Which Smoking Promotes Gum Disease

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in bad breath, oral disease, side effects

The 3 Week Diet

Smoking has been widely linked to cancer and heart disease. But did you know it can cause gum disease too? In fact, tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for gum disease.

Periodontal or gum disease ranges from simple inflammation to a serious problem that causes damage to the tissues and bones that support the teeth. Often, this condition results to tooth loss, infection, and worst, cancer. Whilst gum disease has many different causes, various studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most common risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. Statistics show that 40 percent of all cases of gum disease are due to smoking.


But in what ways does smoking promote gum disease?

1)   By weakening the immune system. Periodontal disease often results from infection. Smoking makes a person more at risk of oral health problems because the toxins in cigarettes suppress the immune system, making it easy for infection to proliferate.

2)   By hampering blood flow. Proper blood circulation is essential to our oral health. Basically, blood carries oxygen and other nutrients to the gums and teeth, keeping them healthy and strong. The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke damages the teflon-like layer of cells that ensure proper blood circulation.

3)   By disrupting the balance of the bacterial flora in the mouth. In 2012, researchers at Ohio State University found that smoking kills the good bacteria in the body, thus, allowing infections to spread more quickly. The mouths of smokers tend to have fewer beneficial bacteria and more harmful bacteria.


The debilitating effects of smoking to gum health are not limited to cigarette smokers. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, cigar and pipe smokers develop tooth loss and alveolar bone loss at the same rate with that of cigarette smokers. Even those who use smokeless tobacco (such as snuff and chewing tobacco) are at risk. This is because these products contain 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of oral cancer, as well as throat and esophagus cancer.

What about those who don’t use any form of tobacco but are exposed to passive smoking? Unfortunately, they are also vulnerable to gum disease. In 2001, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill found that the risk of gum disease is high among people who are regularly exposed to cigarette smoke. In particular, they are 50 to 60 percent more susceptible to the disease.

Quit Smoking Today

Your oral health is not just important to your appearance and well-being. It also plays a critical role in your overall health. Problems with oral health, such as gum disease, cavity and tooth decay, are linked to many serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease and respiratory illness. Quitting smoking today is one way to improve your oral health and lower your risk of other chronic illnesses.



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