Lifestyle and Gum Disease

How smoking and alcohol has a negative impact on oral health.

As a number of the older patients who visit our Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield dental practice tell us; there was a time when many people’s social lives revolved around a visit to the local pub for a few drinks, cigarettes and a discussion over the latest football results or politics. With the advent of online gaming and social media, times have certainly changed for youngsters today although, similar to their older relations, drinking still appears to play a part in many of their lives and a large proportion do still smoke.


When we are young and providing of course that we, or anyone close to us, has not suffered from a serious illness, we tend to see ourselves as invincible. Apart from the odd cold, most of us fortunately remain pretty healthy, often unaffected by our lifestyle choices.

As anyone who has reached middle age will tell you though, this does not last and we often pay, in later life, for the mistakes that we made when we were young. As well as serious health issues such as cancer and liver problems, a lifestyle choice which includes smoking and significant alcohol intake, is also very likely to have a negative effect on our oral health.

Oral Cancers

Oral cancer is significantly increased when patients smoke. This is perhaps not surprising given that the carcinogens that are found in cigarettes are ‘swilled’ around our mouth when we smoke.

At Arthur House Dental Care, our dentists are professionally trained to detect and possible signs of oral cancer and may refer you to your GP if they suspect there may be a problem. A referral to your GP does not mean that we ‘know’ that you have oral cancer but is simply a precaution that should be followed up.

Gum Disease

By far the most common problem that occurs, from a dental perspective, when a patient smokes and drinks is that of gum disease.

Whilst other factors such as general oral health care are major factors in preventing gum disease, our lifestyle cannot be ignored and smoking and drinking are two of the major factors that increase the risk. But, why is this?

Smoking – Smoking creates problems for the gums for two key reasons; blood flow restriction and dry mouth. The nicotine in cigarettes has been shown to narrow the already tiny blood vessels in the gum and this prevents blood flowing to them. This in turn increases the risk of infections that the body is less able to fight off. Smoking too, is also a factor in dry mouth syndrome, the effects of which we will discuss in the section on alcohol below.

Alcohol – When we drink and have a hangover, this is caused by dehydration. When this occurs, it leaves our mouth feeling dry. Because most people probably drink in the evening and then go to sleep at night, this can leave the mouth in a very dry state for eight hours or so and this enables the bacteria that causes gum disease to grown in number. If you have ever woken with a dry mouth, you will most likely be able to feel a sticky coating on the teeth; this is the bacteria that has built up during your sleep.

Whilst cutting out or at, least reducing, your alcohol and nicotine intake will help in the prevention of gum disease, you should never neglect your regular visits to our Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield dental practice as early stage gum disease can be treated effectively if caught in time. Ignoring it though is almost certain to lead to advanced gum disease (periodontitis) and potential tooth loss.

To arrange a consultation to check your overall oral health, including your gums, please call Arthur House Dental Care on 0121 323 4492.