What Tobacco Does to Teeth

Smoking Tobacco or using it in any form has wide reaching harmful effects on the whole body not just the teeth. It causes heart disease, emphysema, and lung and mouth cancers. Using tobacco products has a very negative effect on your oral health as well. Some of the most obvious effects smoking cigarettes has are bad breath, tooth discoloration and loss of ability to taste and smell, but there can be more serious periodontal problems.

These changes in oral health are caused by smoking cigarettes and using tobacco:

The lining in your mouth and salivary gland openings on the roof of the mouth become inflamed which can lead to severe mouth sensitivity. Cigarette smokers often develop leukoplakia, which are white patches inside the mouth which are considered precancerous. If you need encouragement to quit smoking, a study published in the Journal of American Dental Association found that the mouth lesion, leukoplakia, completely resolved within 6 weeks of quitting in 97.5% of patients with lesions. Further, tooth decay is amplified by smoking because it increases the build up of plaque and tartar on teeth. Tooth decay damages the tooth and gums, but with smoking, there is an increased loss of bone within the jaw.

Nicotinamides cause the blood vessels to reduce in diameter by 80 % reducing the blood flow by this amount slowing healing down to one fifth of the normal healing time.

Tooth extractions, periodontal treatments, and/or oral surgery are common consequences for the effects smoking cigarettes has on your teeth. However, because of the incessant smoking, those who undergo surgery experience a delayed healing process. Some smokers are not even qualified for these surgeries because of their smoking.

Finally, and perhaps the most scary side effect smoking cigarettes has is developing oral cancer which can lead to premature death and is very painful. For more information on oral cancer and symptoms to look for, visit:

Oral Cancer Foundation


National Cancer Institute

How does smoking lead to gum disease? Tobacco products cause periodontal problems by interfering with the normal function of gum tissue cells, causing gum line recession and bone detachment. Because of this abnormal cell function, smokers are more susceptible to infections. Beacuse of the reduction in blood flow to the gums, mouth wounds cannot heal properly which is why many smokers are not good candidates for oral surgery.

Unfortunately, smokeless tobacco products do not reduce your oral health risks. Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of oral cancer, cancer of the throat and esophagus. Further, chewing tobacco contains higher level of nicotine which makes it even harder to quit than cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco irritates your gum tissue, causing it to recede from your teeth. Additionally, most smokeless tobacco products come with flavor additives which are sugar based. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association showed that chewing tobacco users were four times more likely than nonusers to develop tooth decay. Although these are not technically smoking side effects, tobacco use still causes major dental health problems.

We are happy to include some links to the American Cancer Society page of statistics.

For tips and programs to help quit smoking tobacco visit: