Smoking And Dental Health: Effects, Risks, And Causes

Smoking affects dental health, but did you know how much it can damage your teeth and gums? Don't worry: there are steps you can take to protect yourself! Read our article to learn more.

9 min readSmoking And Dental Health: Effects, Risks, And Causes

Smoking isn't worth losing your smile! Smoking and dental health are two matters that are more interlinked than you may realize.

While it’s widely known that smoking can have a negative effect on oral health and stress levels, there are still many who choose to smoke. Globally, nearly one-fourth of adults smoke cigarettes.

Smoking is one of the most common causes of poor oral hygiene and can lead to many dental issues, including tooth decay, discoloration, gum disease, and even bone loss.

Whether you are just beginning your journey into tobacco use or have been smoking for years, understanding the effects, risks, and diseases caused by smoking can help you make more informed decisions.

In this article, you will find comprehensive information about the relationship between smoking and dental health. Let's get started.

How Does Smoking Affect Your Teeth?

Smoking is one of the most detrimental habits to your oral health. While many people are aware of the dangers associated with smoking in regard to lung health and circulation, fewer consider how much damage it can do to their teeth.

Not only does smoking cause bad breath, discolored teeth, and an increased risk of gum disease, but it can also lead to more serious dental issues such as tooth decay, loss of jawbone density, and even oral cancer.

If you currently smoke, quitting is the most advisable way to protect your oral health from further harm. In addition, take care of your teeth by brushing regularly and seeing a dentist for regular checkups in order to minimize any potential damage caused by smoking.

Common Effects Of Smoking On Teeth

Now that you know that smoking and dental health are closely linked, let's take a closer look at how smoking affects your dental health specifically. Most smokers are aware that smoking can lead to stained teeth and bad breath, but these effects are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how smoking affects your mouth.

Tooth Staining

One of the most visible oral effects of tobacco is the staining of teeth. This occurs when nicotine and tar from cigarettes adhere to the enamel on the surface of teeth.

The molecules in these substances are very small and can penetrate deep into the pores of the enamel, creating an unsightly yellowish-brown discoloration that cannot be removed with regular brushing.

Over time, this discoloration will become increasingly noticeable, and it will be more challenging to experience the benefits of white teeth. Teeth whitening can cost you a pretty penny depending on the type of treatment you choose, so staining is an important effect that you should consider.

The smoke that you inhale while smoking also contains chemicals like hydrogen cyanide and formaldehyde, which can damage the structure of your teeth by causing them to weaken over time.

Tooth Loss

Smoking leads to a decrease in saliva production, which increases the danger of tooth loss. Saliva has a significant role in the maintenance of optimal oral health, as it helps to protect against gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral infections.

The chemicals in cigarettes also cause the breakdown of enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth that protects them from decay. Without this protective coating, bacteria and plaque can build up on your teeth more easily, leading to cavities and gum disease.

This means that any damage done to your mouth due to smoking may not be able to heal properly, further increasing the chances of tooth loss.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is another common effect of smoking on teeth due to the toxins found in cigarette smoke. These toxins irritate and inflame the gums, leading to infection.

Once the gums are infected, plaque and tartar build up around the gum line, causing redness, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding when brushing or flossing. Smoking also reduces saliva production, which helps protect against bacteria that can cause gum disease.

Reduced saliva combined with increased plaque buildup can result in periodontal (gum) disease like gingivitis or periodontitis, that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Whitening Of The Soft Tissue In The Mouth

Leukoplakia is a medical condition in which patches of thick, white, or grayish material form inside the mouth, such as the tongue, gums, and inner cheeks. Tobacco use is the most common cause of this condition.

As plaque from smoking accumulates over time, it becomes white or yellow due to calcification caused by the interaction of calcium deposits from saliva with nitrogen compounds contained in cigarette smoke. The bacteria present in plaque also produce a protein film that traps particles such as nicotine, tar, ash, and other chemicals from cigarettes, leading to discoloration of the soft tissue in the mouth.

The teeth whitening effect can be even more pronounced when combined with other lifestyle factors like drinking coffee or tea.

Common Oral Diseases Caused By Smoking

From periodontal disease to oral cancer, smoking can wreak havoc on your teeth, gums, tongue, and other parts of your mouth. Below are some of the most common oral diseases caused by smoking.

Mouth Cancer

Smoking causes mouth cancer, an extremely preventable disease, with the risk of oral cancer being five to ten times greater among smokers than among non-smokers.

A tumor develops when the chemicals in the smoke enter your body and change your mouth's cells. Smoking weakens the immune system and increases the risk of developing cancerous cells in areas such as your lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat.

The most common type of mouth cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which develops from flat cells called squamous cells that line much of your mouth, including inside your cheeks and lips.

Decreased Taste

Decreased taste, also known as hypogeusia, is a common oral disease caused by smoking. This occurs when the taste buds on the tongue become damaged or destroyed due to long-term exposure to cigarette smoke.

As these cells are replaced with new ones at a much slower rate than when they were initially damaged or killed off by smoking, it takes longer for them to fully recover their ability to detect flavor.

Poor Healing After Mouth And Gum Surgery

Smoking can be a major contributor to poor healing after mouth and gum surgery. The chemicals in cigarettes can interfere with the body's natural healing process, preventing it from properly repairing damaged tissue.

This is because smoking reduces oxygen levels in the blood, which limits the nutrients available to repair damaged cells and tissues. Smoking also restricts blood flow to the area, resulting in slower wound healing times as well as a higher risk of infection or other complications associated with surgery.

Additionally, smoking increases inflammation throughout your body and affects immune system function. These effects reduce your ability to fight off bacteria that could cause infections during oral surgery or slow the healing process.

Keep yourself informed about smoking and oral health with these key facts.

Is Mouthwash Good For Smokers?

Using mouthwash can help smokers reduce the bacterial levels in their mouths and freshen their breath. A smoker's mouth emits a distinctive smell, which can be emitted by tobacco.

Mouthwash also works by killing any harmful germs that can cause infections. Additionally, many types of mouthwash contain anti-inflammatory ingredients that can help reduce inflammation caused by smoking.

Smoking is known to increase the number of bacteria present in the mouth, so using mouthwash regularly may help reduce this risk and improve oral health.

How Long Does It Take For Smoking To Affect Your Teeth?

Factors like your diet, oral hygiene habits, and how much you smoke can affect the time it takes. However, you should be aware that even with short-term use of tobacco products, plaque builds up and bacteria increases in your mouth. So, the effects of smoking on oral health can occur within a week of starting.

Immediately after smoking, nicotine in the smoke produces an acidic environment in your mouth, which eats away at the enamel. Over time, this weakens the enamel, making it easier for bacteria to build up on the surface of your teeth, resulting in cavities or decay. The longer you smoke, the more damage you’ll do to your teeth.

How Do Smokers Restore Their Teeth?

Brushing twice daily, flossing regularly, visiting a dentist for professional cleanings and treatments as needed, and using natural teeth whitening products can all help restore the appearance of stained or damaged teeth.

That said, it’s best to delay smoking or vaping after whitening to avoid further discoloration. These steps combined will result in improved oral health and ultimately improve your smile.

Does Oral Health Improve After Quitting Smoking?

If you are a smoker who is trying to quit, you may be wondering if your oral health will improve. The answer is yes!

Quitting smoking is the most critical step to restoring your oral health and well-being, as cigarettes contain toxins and nicotine, which can cause significant damage throughout your entire body.

Can You Smoke After Teeth Cleaning?

For at least 48 hours following a deep cleaning procedure, it is advisable not to smoke. This can be detrimental to your oral health because the chemicals in tobacco smoke can irritate the gums, preventing them from healing properly and making it easier for plaque and bacteria to form on your teeth.

Additionally, smoking introduces new bacteria into your mouth that could reduce the effectiveness of professional dental cleanings, meaning you may have to get additional treatments or cleanings if you do choose to light up.

How To Remove Nicotine Stains From Teeth?

Removing nicotine stains from your teeth can be achieved through regular brushing and flossing, various teeth whitening options, as well as lifestyle changes. For example, cutting back on smoking or using other forms of tobacco will help to prevent further staining.

Additionally, regular visits to the dentist for professional cleanings are recommended in order to remove any surface discoloration caused by nicotine.

To help reduce the appearance of nicotine stains at home, using at-home teeth whitening kits can help to gently remove some of the discolorations from your teeth. Do remember to avoid smoking after teeth whitening to maximize the effects.

Should I Brush My Teeth After Smoking?

Brushing your teeth soon after smoking can help keep your breath smelling fresh, as well as prevent nicotine and tar from lingering on your teeth and gums, which can result in staining.

Brushing removes chemicals from the mouth that could contribute to cavities or gum disease if left to accumulate. Drinking plenty of water also helps to counteract the dehydration that smoking may cause.

How To Get Rid Of Smokers' Breath?

To get rid of smokers' breath, quitting smoking is the most effective step. The use of strong minty toothpaste or mouthwash, as well as drinking plenty of water throughout the day, can also help flush out toxins that may be causing foul breath.

In addition to following a complete at-home regimen, be sure to regularly see the dentist for checkups and cleanings to keep your mouth healthy and odor-free.

How Does Tobacco Cause Oral Cancer?

Using tobacco in any form is a major contributor to developing oral cancer. Over 7,000 chemicals are found in tobacco smoke alone, including over 70 cancer-causing agents (carcinogens). Inhaling smoke, spitting, or chewing tobacco can cause alterations in cells that could eventually lead to cancer.

In addition, smoking weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to combat infections and diseases. All types of tobacco use put a person at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. So, limiting or eliminating its use is a must in order to reduce the chances.

How Do Dentists Know You Smoke?

Your dentist will be able to tell if you are a smoker based on the signs they find during an examination, such as discolored teeth, a dry mouth, and halitosis, a bad breath condition.

It is advisable not to lie about your smoking habits since it can help your dentist provide better care that is tailored to you. Quitting smoking has substantial benefits for oral health and well-being, and making a dental appointment is the next logical step.

Is Tobacco Good For A Toothache?

Although tobacco may provide temporary relief from a toothache, it should not be used as a remedy. Research indicates that nicotine found in tobacco can increase the likelihood of oral pain and gum disease in the long term. Moreover, smoking or chewing cigarettes can further irritate an already sore area of the mouth and cause more inflammation and discomfort.

For this reason, instead of using tobacco for toothache, consider other alternatives such as over-the-counter medicine or visiting the dentist for professional treatment.

Does Smoking Cause Tartar Buildup?

The use of tobacco can lead to tartar buildup (dental calculus). This dense, yellowish substance is formed when bacteria and food particles mix with saliva and minerals in the mouth. The chemicals found in cigarettes cause an increase in plaque formation which results in more tartar accumulation.

Smoking also reduces the amount of saliva in the mouth. Saliva helps to clean away food particles and bacteria, so having too little of it allows plaque to accumulate faster, leading to more tartar buildup.

Does Smoking Make A Tooth Infection Worse?

As smoking and mouth health are interconnected, smoking can make an existing tooth infection worse. Smoking causes inflammation within the body which makes it difficult for the body to fight off infections like those caused by tooth decay or gum disease. Cigarette smoke also erodes the enamel on teeth, creating openings where bacteria can enter and cause an infection.

How Does Smoking Affect Gums?

Smoking has a devastating impact on gums, as it increases the risk of gum disease. This is due to the chemicals in cigarette smoke, such as nicotine and tar, irritating the delicate gum tissue and reducing blood flow, making it vulnerable to bacteria that cause inflammation.

Over time, this can lead to pockets forming between teeth and gums where harmful bacteria thrive, resulting in bone loss, the recession of gums, or even tooth loss. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults.

Do Cigarettes Cause Tooth Decay?

Cigarettes can contribute to tooth decay by causing the enamel on your teeth to weaken due to its acidic nature, reducing saliva production, which helps remove bacteria from the mouth, and increasing the risk of periodontal disease.

If cavities caused by smoking are not addressed, they can become large and also lead to tooth decay. This can cause infections as well as weaken the teeth, leading to potential breakage in the future. Repairing broken teeth may be expensive and quite uncomfortable, making prevention the best course of action.

Can Smoking Cause Gum Infection?

Smoking causes inflammation of the gums which makes them more vulnerable to bacterial infections. The chemicals in cigarette smoke irritate and damage the tissue around teeth, making them less able to defend against bacteria that could cause gum disease.

Furthermore, smokers have higher levels of plaque on their teeth as a result of decreased saliva production, which can also lead to gum disease.

Final Thoughts

Smoking and dental health are fundamentally linked. Smoking can lead to numerous oral health issues, such as periodontal disease, discolored teeth, and a weakened immune system. Additionally, it increases the risk of developing other diseases or conditions that can have an even greater impact on oral health.

While quitting smoking is the most effective way to reduce these risks and improve overall oral hygiene, it is also necessary for smokers to make sure they maintain proper dental hygiene habits and regular visits to the dentist.