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Gum Disease Treatments Lose Their Punch in Heavy Smokers

January 30, 2023 (HealthDay News)

Treatments for gum disease may have little benefit for heavy smokers, new research shows.

The study findings suggest the need to rethink treatment of the common gum disease periodontitis, according to researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark.

"To our surprise, we could see that the disease had actually grown worse in some parameters in the hardest-hit group, despite the fact that this particular group had received the most extensive, individually designed treatment," study co-author Julie Pajaniaye, a dental hygienist, said in a university news release.

Periodontitis, or gum disease, leads to breakdown of the teeth's supportive tissue and, in serious cases, can result in loss of teeth.

For the study, the researchers studied the effect of different levels of smoking on results of gum disease treatment.

Heavy smokers with the most severe forms of gum inflammation got no benefit from the treatment, the study found. Heavy smokers with moderate periodontitis had a 50% effect from the treatment, compared to lighter smokers.

About 40% of the population is affected by periodontitis and 18% of Danes smoke daily or occasionally, the study authors noted.

Treatment of the disease is adapted to the individual patient, including deep cleansings of affected teeth, education about the harmful effects of smoking and, in some cases, surgery.

Pajaniaye said the findings illustrate the need to include referrals to smoking cessation courses in treatment guidelines for periodontitis.

"This is completely new knowledge for the country's dental clinics, and it should be taken into account when treatment is being planned for the individual patients," she said.

Pajaniaye suggested dentists and dental hygienists should more often refer patients to smoking cessation courses.

"As a heavy smoker with periodontitis, it is very important to understand that working towards stopping smoking is a crucial step in the effective treatment of the disease," she said.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Dental Research.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on periodontal disease.

SOURCE: Aarhus University, news release, Jan. 26, 2023