Recently I’ve had a few patients come in who are or have been heavy smokers, and when I asked about their intentions of quitting, their response has been “oh, well I did quit once but when I did my gums started bleeding every time I brushed and I had a strange taste and my mouth felt sore..so I started smoking again and that stopped it”
Do you ever wonder why this is? Because I can tell you that experiencing bleeding gums, soreness or a strange taste is NOT a sign for you to start smoking again.
This is a warning sign, a big one. And you can either choose to see it as one and try to help the problem, or ignore it.
I also hear a lot of “I’ve smoked for 20/30/40 years and my gums never bleed so they must be fine”…
I’m going to give you a brief over view of what happens to your mouth when you do smoke, and when you stop smoking.
Nicotine doesn’t just effect your mouth, it effects every major system in your body. And one of the most immediate changes to your body that smoking makes is that is lowers the oxygen levels in your blood.
“Nicotine is a stimulant, speeding up the heart by about 20 beats per minute with every cigarette, it raises blood pressure, it is a vasoconstrictor – which means it makes arteries all over the body become smaller making it harder for the heart to pump through the constricted arteries – and it causes the body to release its stores of fat and cholesterol into the blood.”
If this isn’t alarming enough just as it is, it is this process that leads to tooth loss.
Correct- if you smoke heavily, your gums most likely won’t bleed, however gums bleeding is a cry for help. It’s a way for your gums to say “help me, there’s bacterial plaque accumulating under our surface that you maybe aren’t seeing!” in a person who doesn’t smoke, we see this bleeding and are able to act quickly to remove the bacterial plaque build up and help the gums return to a healthy state (whether this is by a visit to the hygienist or just improved oral hygiene habits at home).
Not all smokers suffer from gum disease, and not everyone that suffers from gum disease is a smoker- however those who smoke are twice as likely to suffer from gum disease…and already 50% of adults suffer from it, so the likelihood of having gum disease if you smoke is quite high.
When the plaque collects beneath the gums, it causes the gum to move away from the tooth-causing the recession you see in the photos, and ultimately will lead to bone loss and therefore tooth loss.
Because your gums won’t show any early warning signs if you smoke- you won’t know until it’s too late. Not only this but the effects of bone loss and gum loss are irreversible. We can stop disease from worsening-but we can’t grow bone or gum back. And the longer you smoke, the more likely it is that treatment won’t be as effective.
Please don’t think I’m trying to scare you with this knowledge, I’m simply trying to make you aware as these are the things people don’t think about when they believe everything is fine in their mouth.
So, on to the topic of what happens when you STOP smoking.
You may experience swollen, sore, bleeding, red gums for a while. You may have a strange taste in your mouth-almost metallic. You may notice the gums have a strange pigmentation. Your tongue may feel strange also.
These are the effects of your blood becoming more oxygenated, the oral tissues receiving a normal amount of blood flow again.
This is a good thing! This Is what you want to happen! If your gums start to bleed it’s a good sign because the blood has returned to those areas.
The next step is visiting the dentist for an examination and possibly the hygienist to get some advice on how to maintain the health of your gums.
I hope that this blog gets even just one person to consider quitting smoking!
Quit smoking- keep smiling. A smile can change someone’s day, so make sure it’s a nice full one