A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the effects of secondhand smoke on children’s dental health. In passing, I also mentioned how smoking affects the smoker’s oral health, as well – especially the strongly increased risk of periodontal disease and associated bone and tooth loss.
We’ve known about this link for quite a while, but we still don’t entirely understand the mechanism – how tobacco does the damage it does to the periodontal tissues and underlying bone. Answers continue to emerge, though, including some from a new study I learned of shortly after publishing that post.
This study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, considered the effects of cigarette smoke condensate (CSC) – the particulate matter of smoke – and a microbe called P. gingivalis, which is one of the main players in the development of gum disease. Specifically, they wanted to see the effect of these combined factors on the collagen-degrading capability of human gingival fibroblasts – connective tissue cells found in the gingival crevice (the small space between a tooth and surrounding gum tissue).
Three groups of cells were tested. One was exposed just to CSC, one just to P. gingivalis and one to both factors. Looking at the effects of each exposure, the researchers found that the combination of CSC and the pathogenic microbe was more destructive than either component alone and did so by destroying specific secreted proteins in the extracellular matrix.
This is the kind of tissue destruction that ultimately progresses and manifests as receding gums. It’s also entirely preventable, potentially reversible through proper treatment and care, and offers just one more reason to quit smoking now.