Smokers have lower success rates with periodontal treatment

October 18, 1999

CHICAGO -- Not only are smokers more likely to develop periodontal disease and have more severe cases of the disease than nonsmokers are, they are also more susceptible to treatment failure. According to a study published in the current issue of the Journal of Periodontology, smoking impairs healing after non-surgical periodontal treatment, which typically consists of oral hygiene instruction and scaling and root planing to remove plaque and bacteria from below the gum line.

After six to 10 periodontal appointments in which the goal was to reduce inflammation and probing depths (the amount of space between the teeth and gums), nearly 43 percent of smokers in the study required further periodontal treatment, while only about 11 percent of nonsmokers did. The study included 35 smokers and 35 nonsmokers with periodontal disease.

"Smoking impairs the body's defense mechanisms and interferes with the healing process," explained Robert Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., editor-in-chief of the Journal of Periodontology. "Smokers should understand that they are at increased risk for treatment failure, treatment complications and increased time to treat periodontal disease. Periodontal treatment of smokers should include serious attempts at smoking cessation."

"The good news is your oral health will begin to improve once you quit smoking," said Jack Caton, D.D.S., M.S., president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "In addition to reducing such serious threats as heart disease and cancer, quitting will help ensure you keep your teeth for a lifetime."
In conjunction with the Great American Smokeout in November, the AAP has launched a special section on its Web site at to educate people about tobacco's effects on periodontal health. The smoking section provides information on how tobacco use affects oral health and provides links to the following:

Research studies on tobacco use and oral health
Web sites with smoking cessation information

A free brochure titled Tobacco and Gum Disease is available by calling 1-800-FLOSS-EM or e-mailing The AAP's Web site ( can provide more information and a referral to a nearby periodontist.

The AAP is a 7,000-member organization of dentists specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tissues surrounding the teeth and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontics is one of eight specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For a copy of the study, contact Amanda Widtfeldt at 312-573-3243 or

American Academy of Periodontology

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