The Link Between Smoking and Gum Disease

smoking and gum disease - man smoking

The Link Between Smoking and Gum Disease

Did you know that nearly half the cases of severe gum disease in the United States can be attributed to smoking? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smokers are twice more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers. These smoking and gum disease statistics can be quite daunting.

While there are several risk factors for gum disease, smoking is by far the most significant. At Hicks Dental Group in Prescott, AZ, we will never judge you for your lifestyle choices. But in light of the statistics, we gently encourage all of our patients who smoke to consider options for quitting.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease (periodontal disease) is an infection of the gums that can result in tooth decay and even tooth loss. The initial stage—gingivitis—starts with bad bacteria that cling to your teeth and create a layer of plaque. Without regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings to remove plaque, it can harden into tartar and take up permanent residence under your gums.

When gum disease gets worse, it advances to a severe stage called periodontitis. The infected gums begin to pull away from your teeth and form “pockets” that easily get infected. If the infection spreads to the bone and tissue that support your teeth, it causes loose teeth, tooth loss, and even bone loss. Periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.

Smoking and Gum Disease

The main reason that smoking is so detrimental is that it robs your bloodstream of oxygen. This affects your body’s ability to fight infections and heal damaged tissues. Smoking damages nearly every organ in your body and is linked not only to lung cancer but also to cancers of the cervix, pancreas, kidneys, and stomach.

Smoking also contributes to many other health issues including heart disease, stroke, asthma, cataracts, and gum disease. Because smoking damages the gums by creating more dental plaque, it quickly causes gum disease to grow worse in smokers. After gum damage has occurred, smoking makes it harder for your gums to heal and even makes gum disease treatments less successful.

Can Quitting Smoking Reverse Gum Disease?

Not only are smokers more likely to develop gum disease, but the longer they have been smoking and more often they smoke the greater their risk for severe gum disease grows. When we can catch gum disease in its early stages, it can be reversed through good oral hygiene. However, once the disease has progressed to periodontitis, it can only be mitigated—there’s no going back.

Whether you are an active smoker or have already ceased smoking, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of gum disease or help slow it down.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Brush 15 minutes after smoking
  • Chew xylitol gum after you smoke if you cannot brush
  • Floss daily to remove plaque between your teeth and below the gums
  • Routinely visit your dentist for a check-up and cleaning (at least twice a year, but more frequently if you have advanced gum disease)

Do You Have Questions about Gum Disease?

Don’t ignore the link between smoking and gum disease! To reduce your risk, visit Hicks Dental Group in Prescott for a professional cleaning. We will always do your best to ensure that your gums stay healthy, and help to keep your smile bright for years to come. To schedule an appointment, contact us by calling 928-445-6030 or texting 928-487-4583 today.


Photo by Luka Malic on Unsplash (11/22/2021)