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As many of you may already be aware, October is the month for quitting smoking with the “Stoptober” campaign promoting not only the health benefits to quitters but the cash they could save.
By Ben Lees
I recently read that last year’s Stoptober campaign involved almost a quarter of a million people ,with 65% of those people successfully quitting for 28 days saving an average of £141.00. The campaign’s popularity is due to increase this year with the support of some well-known comedians.
There are plenty of success stories of the quitters, with some able to save cash and go on holiday or some able to spend longer at the gym without wheezing all the way home but what does quitting smoking do for your teeth?
Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) is essentially an infection caused by a build up of bacteria under the gum line which erodes away the tissue supporting your teeth and, if left untreated, leads to tooth loss.
One of the main risk factors of periodontal disease is smoking. Plenty of patients remain unaware that smoking has a profoundly adverse effect on the health of their teeth and gums because it reduces blood flow to the gums and supporting tissue around the teeth and causes gum inflammation.
Inflamed gums trap more bacteria underneath the gum line and it becomes harder to brush bacteria away from, and out of, the gum line. Additionally, one of the signs of periodontal disease is bleeding gums and, because smoking reduces the blood flow to the gum, it is unlikely that a smoker will be alerted to periodontal disease as early as a non-smoker.
If a patient has periodontal disease, smoking will also prevent recovery as studies suggest the “pockets” of bacteria below the gum line are deeper and continuing to smoke leads to a faster build up of bacteria.
It is therefore vital that dentists and hygienists provide the appropriate smoking cessation advice to all of their patients who smoke. This should be provided before, during and after periodontal disease is identified.
Unfortunately, our Clients often approach us after receiving surprising news that they have periodontal disease and in a lot of cases, their teeth are either already loose or have had to be extracted.
Sadly, some of our Clients have smoked and were not warned of the risks at the time, or their dentist did not recognise that they were a smoker and therefore at greater risk of periodontal disease, and some of our Clients have never smoked but have periodontal disease because the bacteria under the gum line was not identified or treated early enough.
Not only were they unaware of the disease itself and the harmful effects of smoking but they were not aware that if their teeth were extracted, in a lot of cases, to get replacement implants they would need thousands of pounds to do so.
Of course, if periodontal disease has developed or worsened as a result of negligent dental treatment then we can pursue a claim to recover damages and the future treatment costs by demonstrating that periodontal disease should have been identified and treated earlier, but as with most things prevention is better than cure.
I therefore fully support the Stoptober campaign in the hope it will raise awareness of the link between smoking and poor dental health, and to encourage dental practitioners to provide cessation advice more rigorously with all patients who will reap health benefits and certainly save cash.
If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease and suspect it was identified late or not treated appropriately, contact a dental practitioner for treatment advice and a member of the Dental Negligence Team for specialist legal advice.