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How does smoking cause gum disease?

Smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of periodontal (gum) diseases among adults. Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. An example of the effect is receding gums. A receding gum line exposes the tooth roots and increases your risk of developing a sensitivity to hot and cold, or tooth decay in these unprotected areas.

Studies show that smoking increases the risk of gum disease by 5 to 7 times, as compared to non-smoking. Smoking kills the beneficial bacteria present in our mouth, allowing the disease-causing bacteria to flourish. Furthermore, smoking cripples our immune system and shrinks the blood vessels, so the ability to heal is slowed down.

Smoking weakens your body's infection fighters (your immune system). This makes it harder to fight off a gum infection. Once you have gum damage, smoking also makes it harder for your gums to heal.

What does this mean if you're a smoker?

  • You are two times more likely to have gum disease than a nonsmoker.
  • The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease.
  • The longer you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease.
  • Treatments for gum disease may not work as well for people who smoke.

Tobacco use in any form—cigarettes, pipes, and smokeless (spit) tobacco—raises your risk for gum disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.