27 Oct 2023
3 min read
The association between smoking and a number of health issues is well known.
One such association is the relationship between smoking and oral health – including gum disease.
But while smoking makes gum disease more likely, it paradoxically also makes it more difficult to spot.
One of the most common symptoms of gum disease is bleeding gums.
The nicotine in cigarettes, however, is a vasoconstrictor.
This means nicotine restricts the flow of blood in the mouth.
In other words, a smoker with gum disease is less likely to suffer from bleeding gums.
In the absence of this tell-tale sign, the patient is less likely to realise they have gum disease.
Smoking also leads to more of the worst kind of bacteria.
While genetics is the number one factor in determining whether someone will suffer from gum disease, smoking is also a significant risk factor.
It also increases the likelihood of a worse outcome for a gum disease patient.
The longer a patient smokes, the more fertile an environment their mouth becomes for harmful bacteria.
But stopping smoking can help patients to achieve improved outcomes.
The best time to quit smoking or to significantly cut down is as soon as possible.
A good first step is to seek the help and advice of your dentist, GP or local pharmacist.
There is also a lot of information online to help you on your way.
The NHS provides tips such as listing all your reasons to quit, listing triggers and how to avoid them, exercising “away the urge” and using stop smoking aids.
While the NHS says vaping is “substantially less harmful than smoking”, many dentists do not recommend it as a substitute because it still contains nicotine.
Many also consider studies on vaping to be inconclusive.
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