Let’s be honest. You, as well as every American with a pair of ears have heard that smoking is harmful to your health. Decades of increasingly dramatic anti-tobacco ads have even drilled the specific negative side effects into your brain, and pressure from lobbyists has led cigarette companies themselves to embroider their packs with a neat list of ways their products can mutilate the human body. Cancer, pregnancy complications and gum disease are among the myriad of ailments that rise from the average person’s subconscious when tobacco products, specifically cigarettes, are mentioned. Today we are going to talk about gum disease, and the ways that smoking inevitably hastens it.
HOW DOES GUM DISEASE START?
Not to be confused with the the relationship between smoking and gum disease, we’re going to first delve into what generally initiates the first phase of periodontitis. Named after the supporting tissues around the teeth, A.K.A. the periodontium, gum disease is the result of microorganisms from external sources collecting on the surface of the tooth. These microorganisms eventually break down the ridge that secure the teeth, known as the alveolar bone. This deterioration of bone and tooth drastically affect the sensitive flesh of the gums, leading to symptoms that include halitosis, swollen and bleeding gums, and a recession of the gums that leads to the illusion of lengthened teeth.
HOW DOES SMOKING CAUSE GUM DISEASE?
- Cigarette smoke builds plaque and tartar
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 harmful chemicals, all of which must come in contact with your teeth and gums on the way down to your equally vulnerable lungs. Besides unsightly discoloration, these chemicals build tartar and plaque on your teeth that initiate the deterioration of the gums and alveolar bone.
- Tobacco products suppress the immune system
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that tobacco consumption slows down the body’s immune system, preventing damaged gums from healing. Once the chemicals from continued tobacco use start the deterioration process and crush your immune system, it’s a downward spiral in gum-and-tooth quality that can only be halted when you stop smoking.
- Smoking stops the growth of blood vessels in the gums
Continuing in the vein of hindrances to the gums healing process as a result of smoking, nicotine is known to halt growth and constrict blood vessels in the human body. The blood vessels in our gums suffer just as much as any other vessel in our bodies, doubling the obstacles that our already sensitive gums face in their quest to heal themselves. The fact that nicotine itself halts growth is especially alarming, since it means that deterioration can’t be avoided by switching from smoking to chewing tobacco.
In the face of this wealth of information, the relationship between gum disease and tobacco products cannot be ignored. To prevent periodontitis, few things are more effective than not smoking. It is important to recognize this early, and save yourself years of damage control.