It’s not breaking news that smoke is toxic to your lungs, heart, and brain. But how bad is smoking for your teeth? For starters, smoker's teeth leave your teeth brown and your breath stale. But this highly addictive habit has much more serious consequences for your oral health, including gum disease, tooth loss, and even mouth cancer.
There’s no debate over if smoking will affect your teeth and oral health, only when you’ll see the impact. Understanding how smoking takes a toll on your mouth may help you begin the journey to quit--and, your dental care team can play an important role in helping you put an end to this dangerous habit.
What Does Smoking Do To Your Teeth?
Here are some ways smoking affects your teeth and mouth:
1. Smoker's Teeth & Staining
Your bright white enamel won’t stay that way once exposed to the nicotine and tar in cigarette tobacco. Teeth will quickly turn an unattractive shade of yellow after you start smoking—heavy smokers often complain their teeth are nearly brown after years of smoking.
2. Bad Breath
With nearly 600 different ingredients, a lit cigarette emits thousands of chemicals that dry out your mouth, lead to bacteria build-up, and linger in your mouth and lungs for hours. Hello… “smokers’ breath”!
3. Loss of Taste and Smell
Smoking can alter the shape of your taste buds and affect the formation of blood vessels, leading to decreased taste and smell sensitivity.
4 . Cavities, Decay, and Tooth Loss
Smoking promotes bacteria, plaque, and tartar build-up, all of which lead to cavities, decay, and eventually, tooth loss.
5. Mouth Sores and Ulcers
The harmful chemicals in cigarettes inflame and irritate the mouth’s mucous membranes, often causing sores to form. Ouch!
6. Gum and Periodontal Disease
People who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease—that’s why smokers are twice as likely to experience gum disease, according to the CDC. With gum disease comes receding gums, which expose the margins of crowns and may make oral hygiene more difficult.
7. Weakened Immune System
Smokers' immune systems become compromised, increasing the risk for oral disease and longer recovery from dental surgical procedures.
8. Oral Cancer
At least 69 of those 600 chemicals found in cigarettes cause cancer, including mouth cancer, leading to thousands of annual deaths. These harmful chemicals cause mutations in the healthy cells of your mouth and throat, increasing your risk of developing oral cancer.
If you’re still clinging to a smoking habit, it’s vital to visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and a full mouth exam—cheeks, tongue, and throat—to help detect any issues that need follow up. Better yet? Work on a plan to quit. While withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, irritability, and intense nicotine cravings, can make quitting smoking seem daunting, most of the nicotine receptors in the brain that make smoking so addictive will return to normal after six to 12 weeks.
At CNS Dental, we want the best for your dental health—and your overall health. Talk to our team if you need help to quit smoking so we can provide support and resources.