Smoking Versus Teeth

A set of dental impressions holds an unlit cigarette

THE FIRST NEGATIVE health effect we usually think of in connection to smoking is lung cancer, but it actually harms every system in the body. Oral health is no exception. Smoking (or any kind of tobacco consumption, including chewing tobacco and vaping) is a serious risk factor for a lot of oral health problems.


Smokers Are More At Risk Of Oral Cancer

Despite lung cancer being the high-profile risk associated with smoking, 80% of oral cancer diagnoses are connected to a smoking or chewing tobacco habit. Oral cancer can involve early symptoms like the sensation of having something stuck in the throat, difficulty chewing or swallowing, numbness, swelling, unusual white patches in the oral soft tissues, or persistent mouth sores or pain.

Regular dental exams are critical for catching oral cancer early.


A Strange Oral Health Complication: Smoker’s Keratosis

Another less well-known effect smoking can have on oral health is smoker’s keratosis or white patches on the roof of the mouth. This condition is still a mystery to medical science, but it could be the result of inflamed mucous glands. The white patches usually aren’t painful, but they may be precancerous.


Gum Disease Is More Likely With A Smoking Habit

According to the CDC, around 47% of adults over 30 have some form of gum disease. Smoking doubles the risk of developing it and also makes it more difficult to treat. Smoking can mask gum bleeding (a sign of periodontitis). Therefore, the gums of a smoker can appear to be healthier than they actually are. As it progresses, gum disease can cause serious damage to the gum tissue and even result in bone loss in the jaw and tooth loss. If the bacteria in the mouth gets into the bloodstream through the inflamed gums, it can even jeopardize overall health.


Is Vaping A Safe Alternative?

While vaping may not be as harmful to oral tissues as traditional smoking, it still isn’t safe. Nicotine in any form reduces blood flow, which starves the gum tissue of oxygen and nutrients and slows down the healing process, making tissue death and gum recession more likely. It also dries out the mouth, which can lead to another set of problems from tooth decay to bad breath.


Smoking Increases The Risk Of Tooth Loss

Not only does smoking increase your risk for oral cancer, but it is also associated with an increased risk of tooth loss. Male smokers are up to 𝟯.𝟲 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 more likely to lose their teeth than non-smokers. Female smokers are 𝟮.𝟱 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 more likely. Gum disease can weaken the bone that supports the teeth, resulting in tooth loss.


Additional Side-Effects Of Smoking

According to the Canadian Dental Association, smoking may also result in:

  • Nicotine addiction
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Bad breath, stained teeth and recession of the gum line
  • Accumulation of tartar (calculus) and plaque
  • Increased sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Longer recovery times from dental work
  • Increased heart rate and heart complications
  • Possible breathing difficulties and/or a “smoker’s cough”


Smoking Doesn’t Only Harm The Smoker

Many smokers decide that the health risks of their habit are acceptable, thinking they will only affect them, but secondhand smoke has serious effects too. Studies suggest a link between regular exposure to secondhand smoke and the development of cavities. Beyond oral health risks, there are also broader health risks — particularly for small children and infants, from asthma attacks all the way up to SIDS.


It’s Never Too Late To Quit

Risk factors can’t always be controlled. We can’t help what our genetics are or that we grow old, but smoking is a major risk factor for so many health problems, and unlike ageing and genes, we can avoid smoking or stop if we’ve started. It’s definitely better never to start in the first place, but even a longtime smoker can significantly improve their health outlook by quitting!


You Don’t Have To Do It Alone

Quitting something as addictive as a smoking habit is difficult. However, there are so many allies and resources available to help, including friends, family, counsellors, and a wealth of useful information online.

Another great resource is the dentist, who can check for early symptoms of oral health problems and help you work to keep your mouth healthy!

A dental patient quits smoking to reduce his risk of oral cancer


Looking to quit? Find helpful resources from the CDC and CDA to help you breathe easier.

Want to find out more? Read the CDA’s Position on Tobacco Products, Smoking Cannabis and Vaping.

Would you like to book an appointment? Head over to our appointment page to request a visit!



Canadian Dental Association. Smoking Tobacco

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth LossTobacco Use; Smoking and Tobacco Use; and Periodontal Disease

University of Birmingham. (2015, September 14). Smokers at higher risk of losing their teeth, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from ScienceDaily.




The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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