Quit Smoking, Get Healthier Teeth and Gums
Stopping Smoking Almost Immediately Improves Gum Disease
WebMD News Archive
July 20, 2005 -- Cigarette smokers who quit the habit may reap the benefit
in the form of healthier gums. This may help them hold on to their teeth over
the long run, according to a new study.
Researchers found smokers with gum disease who quit smoking experienced a
significant improvement in their gum disease within one year of quitting
compared with those who kept smoking.
"Our study shows that people should stop smoking now if they want to
increase their chances of keeping their teeth into old age," says
researcher Philip Preshaw, a clinical lecturer in periodontology at Newcastle
University's School of Dental Sciences in England, in a news release.
"Dentists have known for some time that smokers have worse oral and gum
health than nonsmokers, but for the first time we have shown that quitting
smoking together with routine gum treatment results in healthier gums,"
Gum disease is caused by bacteria found in plaque, the sticky white
substance that builds up on teeth without proper cleaning. The bacteria causes
the gums to become inflamed, and eventually the gums begin to recede from the
teeth, resulting in gaps between the teeth and gums that gradually destroy the
bone that holds teeth in place.
Over time, this process causes teeth to become loose, fall out, or require
Quitting Smoking Helps Teeth
Researchers say smokers are up to six times more likely to develop gum
disease than nonsmokers because smoking dampens the body's immune system and
makes it harder for it to fight back against the disease.
In the study, which appears in the August issue of the Journal of
Clinical Periodontology, researchers followed 49 cigarette smokers being
treated for gum disease. All of the smokers expressed an interest in quitting
and were offered encouragement to quit smoking in the form of counseling,
nicotine therapy, and/or medication at the start of the study.
A year later, one-fifth of the participants had quit smoking. Researchers
found a significant improvement in gum health and decrease in some gum disease
symptoms among the smokers who had quit compared with those who kept
Because gum disease is often painless until discovered by a dentist,
researchers say many smokers may be unaware of the impact their smoking can
have on their oral health.
"But the increased risk of tooth loss may be enough to persuade many to
quit smoking. Dentists must do all they can to inform patients of the risks and
to assist patients who smoke to stop before the disease takes hold," says
Amanda Sandford, Research Manager for Action on Smoking and Health U.K., in the