How smoking affects your oral health

Written by: Dr Neesha Patel
Edited by: Lisa Heffernan

All tobacco use, whether it be smoking or chewing tobacco, has a negative impact on a person’s health. Smoking and tobacco is not only linked to illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease and cancer but can also have a huge impact on your oral health, putting you at a higher risk of periodontal (gum) disease and oral cancer.


Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between tobacco use and both periodontal disease and oral cancer with Dr Neesha Patel.


Smoking and periodontal disease

Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors in the development of periodontal disease. Studies have shown that smokers with periodontal disease have deeper periodontal pockets, greater bone and tooth loss, and a poorer response to periodontal treatment than a non-smoker. Furthermore, smoking masks one of the first signs of periodontal disease- bleeding gums. This means that you may not even be aware of a problem until significant damage has been caused.


It is thought that smokers are at an increased risk of gum disease due to impaired white blood cell function, impaired wound healing and an increase in the production of inflammatory substances that cause tissues to breakdown. This decrease in healing can also mean that the individual has a reduced response to any periodontal treatment that is recommended.


Smoking and oral cancer

Oral cancer is the 11th most common cancer in the world, mostly affecting people over the age of 40 and men, however, in recent years there has been an increase in oral cancer cases in younger age groups and women. The prevalence of oral cancer is spreading fast, with around 6,800 people diagnosed with oral cancer in the UK each year. Evidence suggests that 60% of mouth and oropharyngeal cancers in the UK are caused by tobacco use, with a further 30% caused by consuming alcohol, when consumed together the risk of cancer is increased further.


Are some types of tobacco worse than others?

There are many different types of tobacco available on the market, but no one tobacco product is healthier than another. All forms of tobacco contain nicotine which is linked to all the health problems we have mentioned above, not to mention addiction.

Different types of tobacco products include:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Shisha
  • Snuff

The good news is that patients who stop smoking can respond just as well to periodontal treatment as those who don’t smoke. So if you’re addicted to smoking and would like to kick the habit to the curb, look for a support group or start using licensed nicotine-containing products instead of cigarettes to wean yourself off cigarettes slowly. Licensed nicotine-containing products are available on prescription and over the counter.

Using E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes have become very popular to help people quit smoking or reduce the amount they smoke. However, recent research has shown that vaping can produce toxins that can damage DNA. Electronic cigarettes might be safer than normal cigarettes but they still pose health risks. If you do decide to use E-cigarettes they should be used as part of a plan to stop smoking.


If you’d like guidance and support to stop smoking or you’re worried about your gums, you can make an appointment with Dr Neesha Patel here at Pure Periodontics.

By Dr Neesha Patel

Dr Neesha Patel is a leading consultant periodontist in London who is also the Clinical Director at Pure Periodontics clinic. She specialises in laser periodontics and all aspects of gum health including receding gum, gum disease and gummy smile treatment.

Dr Patel has worked in both general practice and hospital settings, including restorative dentistry and oral and maxillofacial surgery. She gained postgraduate qualifications from the FGDP of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and has since gained a Masters in Clinical Dentistry (Periodontics) from Queen Mary University with distinction.

She also successfully completed the Membership in Restorative Dentistry of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh examination and was awarded specialist status by the General Dental Council. Dr Patel lectures extensively on continuing education courses and newly-qualified dentists.

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