One of the major issues of smoking is that it tends to disguise the damage taking place to the teeth and gums. Infected gums are usually red, puffy and bleed while being brushed. A smokers gums are not like this and will usually be thin, pale and do not bleed readily.
The nicotine found in tobacco smoke is a vaso-constrictor meaning it acts on blood vessels to contract them and reduces the blood flow to the gum and bone. Due to the decreased blood supply, one of two things happen. The first being it masks gum disease and the second being it masks signs of disease and hinders the body's ability to fight off infection.
In addition, when the chemicals in tobacco smoke integrate with plaque bacteria it creates a high risk situation. Dental x-rays from smokers from all ages have usually found that bone support has begun to shrink away from the tooth roots. Due to there being only a few warning signs this deterioration usually goes unnoticed.
Nicotine has a complex effect on saliva & promotes a thicker form of saliva compared to thin, watery saliva which helps to counteract the effects of acid attack after eating. This is why many heavy smokers find they are still prone to decay even if they are thoroughly brushing.
It is a known fact that smokers are six times more likely to have or develop gum (periodontal) disease. Smoking causes the bone and gum to shrink away, therefore, the membrane holding the teeth in place becomes compromised. This may lead to loose teeth that overtime may eventually need to be extracted.
It is very important to be aware that smoking can hinder the signs of gum disease for years and by the time any issue is noticed the gum disease may be advanced. While slight gum infections are commonly and easily treated a continuation to smoke will only cause the situation to progress and become a lot more serious.
Deterioration may be reduced by brushing and flossing however it has been found that smokers have reduced sensation in their mouths. Due to this, it is difficult to detect and remove plaque from the gum margins.
The only way to prevent and improve periodontal disease is to quit smoking, maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist on a 3-6 monthly basis depending on your dental condition.
For more information on reasons to quit visit www.quit.org.au