Smoking increases the risk for gum (periodontal) disease, a condition that destroys the supporting tissue of the teeth. This in turn can cause tooth loss; smokers are twice as likely to lose teeth as non-smokers.
Apart from tooth loss, the other common symptoms of periodontal disease are also unappealing: red, irritated, swollen gums that may bleed when teeth are brushed; halitosis (bad breath); gaps between the teeth and ‘pockets’ around them (an indication that the bone holding the teeth roots is deteriorating).
The risk of contracting periodontal disease increases as the amount you smoke increases. For example, if you smoke 10 cigarettes a day or less, the risk is about three times higher than for a non-smoker. If you smoke 30 cigarettes a day, the risk is six times higher.
There are treatments for periodontal disease, but these are adversely affected by smoking. Tobacco hinders oral healing, as nicotine causes the small blood vessels to contract and reduces blood supply. Poor wound healing can be painful, and is why smokers suffer more pain than non-smokers when their wisdom teeth are extracted.
Discoloured teeth and gums
Smoking also affects the mouth in cosmetic ways. Tobacco stains the teeth a yellow-brown colour. Some discolouration is only on the surface and can be removed by the dentist, but if it goes deeper it can only be removed surgically. Fillings may also become discoloured and therefore more noticeable.
Heavy smokers sometimes have a condition called 'smoker’s melanosis', in which the gums become discoloured, particularly around the front teeth. The condition will disappear after some years without smoking.
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