South Shore Long Island
Periodontics & Implantology P.C.
Dr. Leslie G. Batnick, D.D.S.
Dr. Lois B. Levine, D.D.S.
Dr. Joo H. Kim, D.D.S.
Diplomates, American Board of Periodontology

Tobacco & Periodontal Disease

It’s no secret that tobacco use has been linked with a number of serious diseases, including lung disease, heart disease, and a range of different cancers.

While these diseases are obviously of deep concern, as periodontists, we are also deeply concerned by the fact that current studies now link periodontal disease with tobacco use. It also appears that those who use tobacco and develop periodontal disease will develop more severe cases than those who don’t use tobacco.

How Does Tobacco Use Affect Oral Health?

There isn’t one single way that tobacco use impacts your oral health. Many different factors come into play, which part of the reason why smoking and chewing tobacco can cause such a range of disease.

For one thing, tobacco use leads to greater formation of calculus (tartar) on the teeth. This tartar can’t be removed by brushing and flossing; it requires the skilled technique and instruments of a trained dental professional. Tartar buildup along the gumline leads to the formation of periodontal pockets around the teeth. The pockets that form in the gums of people who use tobacco tend to be deeper, providing more space for bacteria to thrive. As periodontal disease progresses, those who use tobacco are likely to experience a greater loss of the bone tissue and connective fibers that hold your teeth securely in place.

Periodontal disease isn’t the only oral condition associated with tobacco. If you use smokeless tobacco (chew or dip), your chances of developing oral cancer increase. Oral cancer is a particularly dangerous form of cancer because it is often not discovered until it is well developed.

From an esthetic standpoint, tobacco use also leads to discoloration of both dental enamel and restorations. It also leads to chronic bad breath.

Treating Periodontal Disease in Tobacco Users

The problems caused by tobacco use aren't limited to disease development. Tobacco use also impedes our ability to successfully treat diseases of the mouth.

Many of the chemicals found in tobacco, including tar and nicotine, impede the flow of blood to tissues, which means that they slow down the healing process. This can lead to an increased risk of complications following a procedure, including increased delayed healing and dry socket, a painful complication that can occur when the clot that forms after an extraction is dislodged. The pulling action that accompanies cigarette smoking is often a culprit in dry socket.

Heavy smoking also causes increases the risk of periodontal disease rapidly advancing despite treatment and can increase the failure or infection rate of dental implants.

What’s the Solution?

The negative health effects begin to dissipate just minutes after your last use. If you need assistance quitting tobacco, we urge you to discuss your concerns with the doctors here at South Shore Long Island Periodontics & Implantology or with your primary health care provider.