How Smoking Affects Your Teeth


Certain things in life are undeniably true. Here on Earth we see the sun rise and set. We know this to be true based on daily evidence. Something else that is true is that smoking cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco related items are terrible for your overall health. Especially when compared to not dabbling in such things.


Whether you smoke or not, you have likely been told to not smoke or to quit smoking for the sake of our health. This is for good reason. The tobacco, nicotine and carcinogenic properties found in cigarettes can increase the risk of heart disease, emphysema, as well as cancer of the lung and oral cavities. As if that weren’t enough, smoking also:


  • leads to poor sleep caused by nicotine withdrawal and poor breathing

  • increases the risk of psoriasis (excessively dry skin)

  • causes premature aging and heavily wrinkled skin

  • leads to hair that thins and looks depleted

  • causes scars and wounds to heal more slowly


If smoking can do all that damage to the rest of you, imagine what it does to the part of your body that comes closest to the tobacco; your mouth. Your teeth, gums and overall oral health are severely impacted when you make the decision to smoke. The myriad of issues you may be causing yourself are outlined below. Although the images are less than appealing, one should always know what they could potentially be causing themselves.


Oral Cancer


Without question the most deadly and terrifying consequence of smoking is the increased risk of oral cancer. Historical evidence has shown that oral cancer results in death in more than 50% of cases within 5 years of diagnosis. In fact, oral cancer puts one at a higher risk of death than cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and skin cancer. Be sure to get an oral cancer screening from your dentist at least once a year whether you are a smoker or not.


An example of oral cancer.

An example of oral cancer.


Sensitivity and Loss of Taste


The dryness and toxicity of tobacco smoke can lead to both minor and severe inflammation of the salivary gland openings, lining and gums of your mouth. This inflammation can lead to severe mouth sensitivity which can definitely impact your quality of life. It will also limit your ability to eat and drink certain foods. In the same vein, the smoking habit can eventually cause one to lose the ability to taste and even smell as your cells get damaged over time.


Mouth Lesions (Leukoplakia)


Those who smoke cigarettes are more likely than those who don’t to develop lesions within the oral cavity, a condition known as leukoplakia. This manifests itself in white patches that can be quite painful and slow to heal. Luckily for smokers, the American Dental Association discovered that 97.5% of patients saw their leukoplakia completely disappear 6 weeks after they quit smoking. That is a remarkable rate of improvement.


An example of leukoplakia.

An example of leukoplakia.


Tooth Decay


Tooth decay as you know is caused by bacteria in built up plaque and tartar. Smokers put themselves at increased risk of this issue due to increased oral dryness. This lack of saliva allows plaque to build up and thrive. Dryness also upsets the natural flow of saliva which causes an unhealthy pH balance within the mouth.


Gum Disease


As plaque builds below the gum line, the bacterial infection causes the gums to swell and eventually recede. This process can greatly increase the risk of tooth loss and permanent loss of gum and bone. This is compounded by the fact that smoking permanently damages normal cell function as well as decreases normal blood flow to the gums.




The most clearly visible ill effects of smoking cigarettes and other nicotine laced products is the staining it causes your teeth. Cigarette, cigar and pipe based tobacco smoking all contain tar, which is the primary staining agent to worry about along with public enemy number one – nicotine.


An example of smoking stained teeth.

An example of smoking stained teeth.


Dry Mouth and Bad Breathe


A dry mouth is also a stinky one. The lack of saliva that usually coats the teeth and flushes the mouth of plaque is not being produced at optimal levels. The bacteria that builds up as a result can lead to severely bad breath that makes your potential staining that much worse. Staining stinks. So will your breath.


Sources: eHow, Best Dentist Guide

Photos: Medical Database, Best Dentist Guide, Hardin MD

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