Smoking and Periodontal Disease
by S2H RT Staff

Do you have a winning smile! Are most of your teeth straight and white? All of us want a great looking set of chompers. But if you're like me, your teeth probably arenít ready for Hollywood. If you smoke, then you need to understand what affect smoking can have on your teeth. There is, in fact, a strong causal relationship between smoking and periodontal disease. I saw this first hand in many of the patients I treated. Every time I gave them a breathing treatment, Iíd see their horrible periodontal disease close up and personal. It wasnít pretty, nor did it smell very good. So in my over 20 years at the hospital, you could say I became an expert at evaluating the teeth of my patients. Iím no dentist, but I can recognize tooth loss and decay when I see it. Iím tell you right here and now, I know had bad periodontal disease and smoking can be.

We once had a patient come from the operating room with a breathing tube that needed adjustment. Well first of all, he had what we call "ortho-breath". I can't really explain what that is, you just have to experience it for yourself. A lot of our joint replacement patients had this phenomena. Not sure why, but it was there. The nurses used to make a point to brush their teeth first thing. But I digress, as I re-taped his breathing tube, I saw the patient had a few teeth missing and the rest did not look very good.

I didn't think much more about it until I read his chart. He seemed to have had a normal medical background and history. He lived in the suburbs and his family looked like normal upstanding citizens. Not a degenerate in the bunch. He had the obvious arthritis in his hips and he smoked cigarettes for about 20 years; right around a pack a day. Not anywhere in his chart did it mention a reason for his severe periodontal disease. We may now have an official answer as to why his teeth looked so bad. A study from Australia tells us about this relationship between smoking and periodontal disease.

We all know that smoking is bad for the lungs and heart. It causes many types of cancer and exacerbates hundreds of other horrible diseases. Now we can add periodontal disease to the growing list that includes smoking as a risk factor. Apparently, smokers and former smokers have much higher odds of losing their teeth to periodontal disease than never smokers. The risk does decline once the smoker quits smoking, however, the risk for tooth loss continues for at least 30 more years after quitting. The researchers also stated that people who were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke for 6 or more hours also had a higher risk for periodontal disease and tooth loss than those who were not exposed.

Just one more reason why you should stop smoking. Like I always say, itís hard to believe people would need one more reason, but here it is anyway - periodontal disease and smoking. When deciding to quit smoking, itís really all about the reason isn't it? Perhaps keeping all your teeth isnít what really motivates you to quit smoking, but eventually something will. It may not be a dentist pulling out a rotten tooth, it might be a physician telling you they found a mass in your lungs instead. The point is, donít wait to make that decision. Donít wait for smoking to cause periodontal disease or cancer or some other health problem. Youíre smart and you can figure it out on your own.

There are so many stop smoking benefits, including healthy teeth and gums. So stop smoking and avoid periodontal disease. Enjoy your smiling ways and fresh breath. I know those around you will too.

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