Bacteria in gums
Bacteria in gums

Causes of Gum Disease

Smoking and gum disease: how you're at risk

Smoking is bad for your health and that includes your gums. Smokers' teeth have a higher risk of developing gum disease and, if you do have it, it is likely to be more severe and harder to treat than for non-smokers. The more you smoke and the longer you are a smoker, the higher your risk becomes. 

Cigarette in ashtray

Why are smokers teeth more at risk?

Gum disease, or gingivitis, is caused by the build up of plaque bacteria on, around and in between your teeth. This can irritate gums so they become red, swollen and may bleed when brushing and flossing. If left untreated this can become more severe and may even lead to tooth loss.

Smoking and gum disease are a bad combination, because smoking weakens your body’s ability to fight off infection, it makes it harder to combat gum infection and, once your gums are damaged, smoking makes it more difficult for them to heal.

The other reason that smokers are more at risk is because smoking can mask the signs of gum disease.

Bleeding gums when brushing and flossing are a common symptom of gingivitis but, because nicotine restricts the blood flow to the gums, smokers may not experience this early warning sign of gum disease.

Healthy gums are pink in colour and if they become red it may be a sign that gum disease is setting in. This is another signal that can be missed if you smoke as the gums of heavy smokers can become grey and discoloured.

Smoking and gum disease

If these early symptoms are missed, gum disease may not be spotted until it is more serious. This is a problem as, once smokers develop gingivitis it’s harder to treat. Why? Because smoking reduces your body’s ability to combat and heal gum infection and treatments may not work as well as they do for non-smokers. This means smokers tend to have more severe gum disease and are more likely to suffer tooth loss as a result. 

How to prevent gum disease

Step one is to give up smoking. Even in people with severe gum disease, quitting smoking makes a big difference. So if you need another good reason to quit, stopping smoking will help to keep your gums and teeth healthy. 

Getting rid of plaque bacteria with a good oral health routine will also help to improve gum health. Brushing twice daily with Corsodyl® Toothpaste physically removes the build up of bacteria along the gumline, helping to keep gums healthy and teeth strong. 

It is particularly important for smokers to have regular check-ups, because a professional examination may pick up the signs of gum disease even if they are masked by smoking. Your dentist can also advise on what you can do to prevent gingivitis from getting worse.