We know that smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your teeth. We know that smoking can increase your risk of gum disease. Since gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, it makes sense that smoking also increases your risk of tooth loss.

Smokers have about double the risk of gum disease as nonsmokers. However, the tooth loss risk is even more elevated for smokers, about 2.5 times higher for women, and 3.5 times higher for men.

Now a new study tells us why the tooth loss risk might be so much higher. Smoking also impacts the body’s ability to counter and recover from tooth infections, which can also lead to tooth loss.

Smoking Destroys Oral Health

“Completely Depleted” Natural Defenses

The new study was conducted by researchers at Case Western University and published in the Journal of Endodontics and recently highlighted by the University’s daily research feature. Researchers looked at 69 people (32 smokers and 37 nonsmokers) with irreversible endodontic pulpitis, usually caused by an infected tooth. Some of the people were symptomatic (they had pain and other symptoms of their condition), while others were asymptomatic (they had no symptoms). However, all needed to have their their teeth treated with root canal therapy to resolve the infection. Researchers tested the teeth to see how well the body was responding to the infection.

They found that people who smoked had much lower levels for two key immune compounds, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and human beta defensin (hBD)-2. The levels of these compounds were related only to smoking, and did not correspond to the symptomatic or asymptomatic nature of the infection.

In the words of the lead researcher, “We hypothesized that the natural defenses would be reduced in smokers; we did not expect them to have them completely depleted.” Now they believe that this finding explains in part why people who are smokers have poor results from root canal therapy.

Quit Smoking for Good Oral Health

This study teaches us more about the dangers of smoking on your oral health. It can make root canal therapy less likely to succeed, which might make you think you would rather remove an infected tooth and replace it with a dental implant.

The problem is that smoking also impacts dental implants. Being a smoker can triple your risk of dental implant failure, taking the rate of success below 90%. So if you are a smoker, the best thing you can do for your oral health is to quit.

And it is best to quit soon. Studies show that it takes about 10-15 years for your body to flush the toxins from smoking and return to normal rates of gum disease, tooth loss, and dental implant success.

Are You Looking for a Dentist in St. Louis?

Whether or not you are a smoker, your dentist is your partner in preserving and restoring your oral health. If you think you have an infected tooth that needs treatment, we can help. Please call (314) 678-7876 today for an appointment with St. Louis dentist Dr. Chris Hill at City Smiles in downtown St. Louis or Clayton, MO.