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Smoking and gum disease

Smoking may be linked to gum disease

As if heart and lung disease weren’t reason enough to quit smoking, a new study has found there's widespread evidence of another health hazard to consider when lighting up — gum disease.

Although a direct correlation between smoking and gum disease has long been known, this is the first national study to show how prevalent the problem is, researchers say.

Current smokers were about four times more likely than people who have never smoked to have periodontitis, but ex-smokers who had abstained for 11 years faced no increased risk, according to the findings published in the Journal of Periodontology. Overall, nearly 53 percent of gum disease in the study was attributed to current and former smoking.

The study also found that:

  • Fifty-five percent of the study’s subjects with periodontitis were current smokers and nearly 22 percent were former smokers.
  • Current smokers of more than 1-1/2 packs of cigarettes a day were nearly six times more likely than non-smokers to have periodontitis.
  • Those who smoked less than half a pack daily were almost three times more likely to have the disease.

Researchers say tobacco can suppress the body’s immune system, reducing its ability to fight infection. Smoking also limits the growth of blood vessels, slowing the healing of damaged gum tissue.

Robert Silverman, DDS, a Delta Dental consultant, says there’s one positive to the study: Quitting smoking or never starting in the first place will greatly reduce your risk of gum disease.

Says Dr. Silverman, "The lesson is, don’t smoke if you want to save your teeth — and your life."