Smoking can cause significant harm to your teeth, especially after years of the habit. For those with tooth discoloration, whitening procedures are a popular choice for restoring a healthy and charming smile.
But for smokers, teeth whitening can be more complicated—not only do stains and discoloration occur faster due to the habit, but the effects are generally more significant.
If you want to improve your smile after years of smoking, your teeth will need a little extra TLC. This article gives you everything you need to know about teeth whitening for smokers.
How Smoking Stains Your Teeth
Smoking and dental health go hand-in-hand. It can cause serious staining of the teeth due to the presence of tar, nicotine, and other chemicals in the smoke, which adhere to and discolor tooth surfaces.
Over time, this leads to a yellowish-brown coloration known as tobacco staining that affects the enamel, dentin, and even within deeper cavities inside the tooth.
Along with these problems, smoking contributes to an increased production of acids, which can corrode teeth surfaces when they come into contact with them.
And since smoking decreases salivary flow, there less cleansing action on your teeth—leading to further accumulation of stain-causing molecules that can attach to teeth surfaces.
Beyond these issues, a vast body of research proves that smoking increases the rate of gum disease, which leads to loss of attachment and more susceptible areas for stains. When all these things come together, the effect on your teeth can be profound—especially if you aren't diligent with your daily brushing routine.
Is Teeth Whitening An Option For Smokers?
If you're a smoker, you might wonder whether or not teeth whitening is an option for you. And that's a valid question—while whitening isn't foolproof, it can be an effective way to reverse the impact of smokers' teeth.
But there are several factors to consider if you're a smoker looking into whitening procedures.
- Varied Results: The effects of smoking on teeth discoloration will vary from person to person. Some cases may respond better to whitening than others, while some might require more intensive treatments in order to get the desired results.
- Preexisting Conditions: If you have mouth sores, ulcers, periodontal disease, cavities or any other oral health issue that results from smoking, whitening may not be an option for you right away, as it could further damage your teeth.
- Quitting: Smoking is a habit that damages your teeth, and you won't get optimal results from whitening until you quit smoking.
- Timing: It's important to wait at least a month after you quit vaping or smoking before beginning any whitening procedure—this allows time for the teeth to begin recovering from the damage done by smoking.
- Treatments: Teeth whitening for smokers requires that you use more intensive treatments like laser teeth whitening and deep bleaching, which are both more expensive than regular whitening procedures.
- Effectiveness: These special treatments can penetrate deeper into the tooth enamel to remove stubborn stains, but they may not be able to completely remove the discoloration caused by smoking. Especially after years of smoking, it's unlikely that any whitening procedure will be able to restore your teeth’s natural color completely.
- Safety: Teeth whitening is generally safe when done as directed, but it can be risky for smokers as it can lead to further tooth sensitivity and irritation of the gums. If you have significant tooth sensitivity, teeth whitening might be painful or uncomfortable.
- Dental Hygiene: If you don't take your daily brushing and flossing routine seriously, teeth whitening won't be effective for you. It is not a substitute for proper oral hygiene.
In short, whether or not you find success with teeth whitening depends on whether you quit your habit, maintain a healthy daily dental routine, and take proper care of your teeth.
Teeth whitening for smokers is possible, but it requires greater effort on your part and more intensive treatments than regular teeth whitening.
Is At-Home Or In-Chair Teeth Whitening Better For Smokers?
At-home whitening solutions are popular because they are seen as low-cost alternatives to visits to the dentist. But when comparing at-home vs. in-office teeth whitening, the latter always wins.
Some studies suggest that the two have similar effects, benefits, and drawbacks, but the reality is that professional teeth whitening is better for your teeth.
Since there are several side effects associated with teeth whitening, leaving the job to a dental professional is the best option. Professional whitening solutions are stronger and can provide a more thorough job than at-home solutions, especially for smokers who have stubborn discoloration.
Furthermore, professional teeth whitening gives you the benefit of timely advice from a knowledgeable dentist, who can give you instructions on how to protect your teeth from further damage caused by smoking and help you find a whitening solution that fits your needs.
Most importantly, in-office teeth whitening reduces the risk of error that often occurs with DIY solutions.
How Long Does Teeth Whitening For Smokers Take?
Teeth whitening duration varies based on several factors:
- Severity of discoloration: If the discoloration is more severe, it may take longer for the teeth to whiten.
- Type of procedure: In-chair tooth whitening typically takes less time than other options, such as over-the-counter solutions like whitening strips.
- Individual tooth: Depending on the size and shape of a person’s teeth, some may take longer to whiten than others.
- Oral health: If your dental health is compromised, you will need to fix that before you can move on to teeth whitening.
- Availability: If you can't work multiple dental visits into your schedule with flexibility, you may end up waiting longer between appointments.
On average, it takes anywhere from one to three sessions of professional tooth whitening to get the desired results. Each session typically lasts about an hour and a half; however, this can vary depending on the method used for the procedure.
It is possible to see results within a day, but you won't see the full impact until a few weeks later.
Top Whitening Solutions For Smokers To Whiten Teeth Fast
If you're panicking about your tooth discoloration, the good news is that you certainly can whiten your teeth. How you do so depends on your budget, lifestyle, and teeth discoloration severity.
1. Whitening Toothpaste
Whitening toothpaste is a common solution used to get rid of yellow teeth. It's low-cost, accessible, and easy to use.
But there are a few things to be aware of when whitening your teeth with whitening toothpaste:
- Don't use for longer than four weeks. Studies show overuse of whitening toothpaste can cause enamel erosion, especially compared to regular toothpaste. To avoid the erosive impact of whitening toothpaste, it’s best to limit the usage of whitening toothpaste to four weeks.
- Avoid overbrushing. When brushing your teeth with toothpaste, remember to be gentle and not overbrush. Doing so can damage the enamel of your teeth and lead to sensitivity.
- Whitening toothpaste shows limited results. Whitening toothpaste can achieve some whitening results, but it is not as effective as professional teeth whitening.
- Avoid fads that don't work. Natural teeth whiteners like baking soda are proven to work, but charcoal is not. It will not help you get whiter teeth.
2. Whitening Strips
Whitening strips are thin pieces of plastic coated with a whitening gel that, when placed on the teeth, breaks down and releases oxygen molecules that attach to the tooth enamel.
This process (called oxidation) removes surface stains and helps make teeth appear brighter. The strips work by keeping the whitening solution in contact with your teeth for an extended period, making them a great option if you don't have time to make it in for an in-office whitening session.
Be sure to follow the instructions, as there are risks associated with not using the strips correctly, such as gum irritation and tooth sensitivity caused by leaving the gel on for too long.
It's also important to only use these strips as directed. If you complete a round more than once every six months, you can risk damaging your teeth.
3. In-Office Whitening
In-office whitening is the fastest and most effective way to get whiter teeth, but it's also the most expensive option. Since it requires the supervision of a dental professional, it is also the safest whitening method.
This procedure typically occurs over a series of appointments, but with technologies such as LED light therapy, it can sometimes be completed in one appointment.
During the process, a whitening gel is carefully applied to the teeth and then activated with a light or laser. This helps to break down the stains on your teeth faster and more effectively than other methods.
It's important to note that this may cause some tooth sensitivity due to the powerful nature of the product. However, this should subside after a few days.
It's recommended that you follow up with regular semi-annual or annual visits for touch-ups and maintenance, similar to your regular dental cleaning. This will help to ensure optimal results and keep your teeth looking white for longer.
4. Pre-Made Whitening Trays
Sometimes, your dentist will fit you with pre-made whitening trays. These are mouthguards that fit comfortably over the teeth and contain a bleaching gel.
They are similar to regular teeth whitening kits, but the gel is typically stronger (i.e., it has a higher peroxide content) than the over-the-counter options, leading to better and faster results.
Before you start this process, make sure to schedule a dental appointment first, as your dentist will need to take impressions of your teeth in order to create trays that fit properly. This is especially important for smokers since it's likely that you'll have deeper and more set-in stains than the average person.
When using pre-made trays, it's important to follow the exact instructions provided by your dentist as overusing them can lead to tooth sensitivity. It's also critical to avoid eating or drinking while wearing the trays since this could impact their effectiveness.
5. Other Teeth Whitening Methods
If in-office teeth whitening is cost-prohibitive or OTC products are too much of a commitment, there are a few other products on the market that can help to whiten teeth.
- Whitening Pens: These pens contain a peroxide-based gel that gets applied directly to the tooth surface for quick, easy whitening. Since it is mess-free and doesn't leave any residue behind, it is one of the most convenient teeth whitening options for smokers.
- Natural Teeth Whitening: Natural teeth whitening solutions like oil pulling and baking soda can help to remove surface stains and brighten teeth. Of course, these are not as effective as professional whitening procedures, but they can be used in between treatments to maintain results.
- Diet: There are several foods to eat that restore your teeth's color and keep them healthy, such as apples, strawberries, and pineapples. Eating these fruits more often and replacing sugary snacks with healthier alternatives can help to naturally whiten your teeth.
Overall, it's important to note that teeth whitening for smokers can be a bit more challenging than regular teeth whitening. Since smoking stains teeth deeply, it can take longer to remove them and may require professional treatments.
Want to learn more? Here are a few questions our customers frequently ask us.
Does Smoking Make Teeth Yellow?
Smoking makes your teeth yellow or brown due to the tar and nicotine in cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. This effect is worse after years of smoking, which can cause these elements to penetrate deep into the tooth's enamel, leading to deep and stubborn stains.
Can You Smoke After Teeth Whitening?
If you want to ensure the success of your teeth whitening sessions, you need to quit smoking. Not only will this improve your health in other aspects of your life, but it will also help to prevent your teeth from becoming stained again in short order.
Should I Brush My Teeth After Smoking?
To keep your breath fresh and reduce staining, brushing immediately after smoking is key. This helps to eliminate nicotine and tar that linger in the mouth from cigarettes—therefore preventing them from settling on teeth or gums. Additionally, drinking plenty of water can counteract any drying effects cigarette smoke has had on your body (i.e., the reduction of saliva production in your mouth).
Which Toothpaste Is Best For Smokers?
For smokers who want to enjoy the benefits of white teeth, a whitening toothpaste is the best bet. Whitening toothpastes contain special abrasives and/or peroxide to remove surface stains and brighten teeth. Additionally, they also contain enamel-strengthening ingredients to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
How Do Dentists Remove Nicotine Stains From Teeth?
The most common way dentists remove nicotine stains from teeth is through professional whitening treatments. This process usually involves the use of a bleaching agent, like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which are applied to the surface of the teeth in the dentist's office and sometimes in custom-made trays.
Professional whitening treatments can take several sessions over several weeks to be successful and should always be done under the supervision of a qualified dental practitioner. For best results, it's important for smokers to follow the instructions given by their dentist and commit to regular cleanings and checkups.
What Toothpaste Removes Nicotine Stains?
Whitening toothpaste can help to remove nicotine stains and other surface discolorations. This type of toothpaste contains special abrasives that work to scrub away surface-level staining, as well as enamel-strengthening ingredients that reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Additionally, some whitening toothpaste also contains a peroxide-based gel to provide even more stain-fighting power.
When choosing a whitening toothpaste, it's important to look for one with baking soda or peroxide, not activated charcoal.
Will Teeth Stains Go Away If You Stop Smoking?
Smokers are more likely to suffer from gum disease and tooth decay due to the toxins in tobacco smoke that can damage tissue and cause teeth to become weaker. Smoking can also lead to halitosis (bad breath), increased risk of tooth loss, oral cancer, and especially tooth discoloration. Quitting smoking is the only way to reduce these risks as it helps improve oral health and restore some of the damage already present.
However, once teeth have been stained due to smoking, this discoloration cannot be reversed by quitting. The only way to restore a healthy white smile is by visiting a dentist for professional whitening treatments. These may include harsh bleaching solutions or laser treatments that help break down stain molecules that have become embedded in the enamel.
The Bottom Line
Smoking is a major cause of tooth discoloration, and quitting is the only way to reduce this risk. If you're already a smoker, it's important to brush your teeth immediately after smoking and use whitening toothpaste to speed up the process. Professional whitening treatments are also available for stubborn stains, and they are the safest and most effective because they are done under the supervision of a qualified dental professional.
Ultimately, it's important to remember that committing to regular cleanings and checkups is key for any smoker looking to improve their oral health and restore their natural white smile. And quitting smoking is the best thing you can do—for your oral health and otherwise.