Informed mum banner

Research shows smokers lose more teeth than non-smokers

May 31, 2011

Periodontitis diseaseStaff and patients at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne are urging smokers to quit and reduce their risk of developing the destructive gum disease, periodontitis.

“Most people know that smoking causes cancer, stroke and heart disease, but I don’t think many people realise that it can also cause your teeth to fall out,” said Dental Hospital patient Ms Eril Riley.

Periodontitis is a bacterial infection caused by a build-up of plaque on the tooth root below the gum-line. The disease is difficult to diagnose until it is at an advanced stage, and if left untreated, can destroy the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth, until teeth become loose and eventually fall out.

Approximately 1 in 5 Australian adults has moderate or severe forms of periodontitis¹.


Evidence shows that smoking is a major risk factor for periodontitis². Smokers have been found to be more than four times more likely to have advanced periodontitis than non-smokers, and it is estimated that half of periodontitis cases in the United States are caused by smoking³. Research shows that smokers lose more teeth than non-smokers do: in one US study, 20% of people over the age of 65 who had never smoked had lost all their teeth, compared with 41% of people over 65 who were daily smokers4.

“It appears that smoking creates an environment in the mouth that is conducive to bacterial growth,” said Dr Julie Fraser, periodontist at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne. “The risk of developing periodontitis increases with increasing numbers of cigarettes per day and years of smoking.”

“The good news is that giving up smoking reduces the risk of periodontitis over time. If a person quits smoking today, over the next 10-11 years, their risk of developing periodontitis will reduce to that of a non-smoker. If a person already has periodontitis, we know that giving up smoking will slow the disease’s progression, and will improve the effectiveness of treatment,” said Dr Fraser.

With regular cleaning and treatment by a specialist periodontist, periodontitis can be controlled, and natural teeth can be protected, but it is very difficult to cure the disease. People with periodontitis often have to receive regular specialist treatment for the rest of their lives.

Related information



 Healthy Choices for Healthy Mouths: Smoking


© Dental Health Services Victoria



1 Australia’s dental generations: The National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004-06. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2007.
US Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking: A report of the Surgeon General, US Department of Health and Human Services, 2004.
 Tomar SL. Smoking Attributable Periodontitis in the United States. Journal of Periodontology, May 2000, Vol 71(5): 743-751.
National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, United States, 1999.