We all know that smoking affects oral health, increasing the risk of oral cancer and gum disease as well as staining teeth. What you may not know is that smoking disrupts the natural balance of microbial ecosystems in the body by killing good bacteria in the mouth and weakening the immune system.
As reported by ScienceDaily, “According to a new study, smoking causes the body to turn against its own helpful bacteria, leaving smokers more vulnerable to disease”.
There is a certain amount of healthy bacteria that lives throughout the body, including the mouth. The study, published in the Journal of Infection and Immunity and cited by ScienceDaily shows that the “the mouth of a smoker is a much more chaotic, diverse ecosystem – and is much more susceptible to invasion by harmful bacteria” than the mouth of a non-smoker.
The healthy or good bacteria forms protective biofilms and helps to fight off the bad bacteria. For those who smoke, it is harder for these bacterial ecosystems to regrow after cleanings. Without these protective biofilms, harmful bacteria can proliferate much faster in the mouth of a smoker than a non-smoker.
“By contrast [with non-smokers],” said Kumar, “smokers start getting colonized by pathogens — bacteria that we know are harmful — within 24 hours. It takes longer for smokers to form a stable microbial community, and when they do, it’s a pathogen-rich community.” In addition, the natural immune system of a smoker fights off the good bacteria, treating it as harmful instead of helpful, making it more difficult to maintain a balance. Often, this immune response, which is at much higher levels than non-smokers, can lead to periodontal or gum disease and even bone loss.
This study adds to the list of the dangers and health risks of smoking and helps to illustrate one of the possible reasons that gum disease is higher in smokers than non-smokers. If you would like more information on how we can help you with your oral health please call our office at 908-359-6655.