Effects of Smoking on Oral Health

We’re all very aware that cigarette smoking has a potentially disastrous effect on our health. From heart disease and cancer to emphysema, cigarette smoke is known to cause a variety of very serious and deadly diseases. Yet, the full effects of smoking on health are often overlooked; and in fact, cigarette smoking also negatively impacts your oral health. Indeed, tobacco smoking is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults.

The effects of smoking on health are well documented, and smoking tobacco can have a significant effect on the appearance and health of your mouth and gums. Just a few of the dental problems associated with smoking include:

  • Halitosis (or bad breath)
  • Staining or discolouration of the teeth
  • Inflammation of the salivary glands
  • Advanced buildup of tartar and plaque on the teeth
  • Bone loss in the jaw
  • Increased risk of mouth cancers and leukoplakia
  • Increased risk of gum disease
  • Slower healing of gum tissue
  • Increased risk of complications following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, oral surgery, and dental implants

In addition, there are a number of serious oral and general health concerns that often result from cigarette smoking:

  • Oral and pharyngeal cancers
  • Lung cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Tooth decay
  • Premature aging
  • Sores or lesions in the mouth

There are some sobering statistics that support the negative relationship between tobacco smoking and oral health. For example, nearly 90% of patients suffering from mouth, lip, tongue, or throat cancer use tobacco products. Furthermore, continued and increased use of these tobacco products significantly increases the risk of developing these cancers. Similarly more than a third of patients who continue to smoke after remission of oral cancers will develop second cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat.

Unfortunately, even exposure to smokeless tobacco products is dangerous for your oral health. Cigars, cigarettes, snuff, and chewing tobacco are all associated with an increased risk of oral cancer, cancer of the throat and esophagus, and other aesthetic effects of tobacco consumption (e.g. stained teeth and gum disease).

Smoking and Gum Disease

Smoking cigarettes is a major contributor to gum disease, as smoking weakens the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. Recent research suggests that smoking disturbs the normal functioning of gum tissue cells making smokers significantly more susceptible to periodontal or gum disease and infection. Moreover, smoking cigarettes prevents proper blood flow to the gums which may slow healing.

Ultimately, in order to maintain good overall health and proper oral health, dentists and doctors will always recommend quitting smoking and ceasing the consumption of smokeless tobacco products. Still, regardless of how long you have smoked or used other tobacco products, quitting will have an immediately positive impact on your health.