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How does smoking affect your oral health?

29 July 2022by Shiv

You can often see the disclaimer “Smoking is injurious to health” in various advertisements and posters around yourself, but hardly does anyone pay heed to it. According to statistics, 24% of the population of the UK, which is around 12.5 million people are indulged in smoking. Smoking not only has a deleterious effect on your oral health but is also the leading cause of major ailments impacting your overall health like heart diseases, hypertension, mouth cancer and lung cancers. These health issues can be fatal. Smoking interrupts the normal functioning of our body systems, and the first part affected is the mouth.

You must understand the gravity of the problems created by smoking and quit before it becomes fatal. If you are looking for smoking cessation advice, we can help you with it at Conway House Dental Practice, High Wycombe. 


Impact of smoking on teeth and gums

  • Stained teeth and gums: Smoking exposes your teeth to the two most toxic substances, nicotine and tobacco. These often lead to nicotine stains on your teeth. The stains occur due to damage caused to the enamel and the reaction of nicotine with oxygen, which converts into brown coloured oxide. Tobacco also contains pigments such as tannins that leave your teeth stained. Staining is one of the telltale signs that indicate tobacco usage. Once you start smoking, these stains will be visible on your teeth, gums as well as fingernails in a short time. They look embarrassing and also make your teeth more prone to infections and damage.
  • Yellow teeth: The main cause of yellowing of teeth in smokers is the Tar. It builds up on the surface of your teeth along with other harmful chemicals and leads to yellowish discolouration. It also destroys the enamel and gives the unpleasant yellowish-brown appearance of teeth, characteristic of smoking. Nicotine is also responsible for yellowing, but the major culprit is the Tar. Teeth whitening treatments can help in concealing yellow teeth to some extent.
  • Bad breath: Smoking impedes the flow of saliva in your mouth. Saliva is a natural antibacterial that thoroughly and constantly flushes your mouth and prevents the buildup of any bacteria or plaque. When saliva flow is reduced, tiny food particles stay stuck in the mouth and act as a potent substrate on which the bacteria start growing. They start breaking it down and release certain acids that cause decay and produce bad breath. Bad breath is called halitosis in medical terms. It is a typical sign of bad oral hygiene and bacterial overgrowth.
  • Plaque and tartar buildup: Smoking makes you immunocompromised, and thus, your body is unable to fight infections. This allows the bacteria to invade and multiply inside your mouth. The sugary food items left in the mouth are the main triggers for bacterial invasion. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on your teeth due to chronic bacterial infection. When it gets hardened, this film is referred to as tartar. These are more clearly visible in people who do not brush their teeth adequately. Plaque and tartar predispose to numerous dental problems such as gum diseases, tooth decay, bad breath, loose teeth and overall bad oral health.
  • Gum diseases: Periodontitis means inflammation of gums and surrounding structures. Due to the reduced flow of saliva, the gums get infected. The symptoms of gum diseases commonly include red and swollen gums, bleeding gums, loosening of teeth from the sockets, painful chewing, sensitive teeth, and receding gum line in advanced cases. Receding gum line exposes the underlying dentin and causes teeth sensitivity.  The smokers are at a very high risk of developing advanced periodontal diseases which have severe manifestations, including systemic manifestations.
  • Tooth loss: Smoking weakens your jawbone, causes bone loss, and this makes your teeth loosened from the alveolar cavity. Also, increased tooth decay demands dental extraction, and you end up losing your precious teeth.
  • Increased risk of oral cancer: There is around 5-10 times higher risk of mouth cancer in smokers as compared to non-smokers. The chemicals present in tobacco smoke disrupt the normal functioning of cells and cause mutations in the genetic makeup. This is how they increase the risk of mouth cancers. Mouth cancer may present with symptoms like red or white patches in the mouth, non-healing ulcers, bumps in mouth, lips or anywhere in the oral cavity, or difficulty in speaking and swallowing. You should not miss your dental checkups as they include a comprehensive evaluation of your oral health, including mouth cancer screening. Early identification up and treatment can improve the outcome in cases of mouth cancer.


Do pipe and cigar smoking also affect oral health?

Yes, pipe and cigar smoking does affect your oral health. It is not the mode of intake but the chemicals present that are the main culprits. So, in any way that tobacco reaches your mouth, it will have a negative impact. Even if you do not inhale it, the chemicals still come in contact with your teeth and gums and cause problems of gum diseases, bad breath and tooth loss. Tooth loss is, in fact, the most common problem faced by people who smoke pipes.


Are smokeless and flavoured tobacco products safe?

The answer is a big NO. In fact, smokeless tobacco products are a hoax and contain more concentrated forms of nicotine. One can of snuff is equivalent to 60 cigarettes in terms of tobacco concentration. E-cigarettes which are inhaled as vapours do not contain tobacco, but nicotine is still present. Therefore, smoke or smokeless, tobacco products are loaded with harmful chemicals that enter your mouth and irritate all the surrounding structures. They cause gum diseases, which leads to receding gum lines and sensitivity. There is an additional risk of oesophagal cancer with smokeless products. The exposition of safe/cleaner cigarettes, flavoured cigarettes,  are all just deceptions with no scientific evidence of reduced damage. Nevertheless, people do get attracted by such fake assumptions and spend more money to buy a little safety with pleasure to cover their guilt.


Can the effects of smoking on teeth be reversed after you quit?

Quitting smoking can improve your overall oral health and even reverse the impacts to some extent. Some permanent changes like a lost tooth cannot be brought back, but you can use cosmetic dentistry and enhance your appearance. Quitting will protect you from further damage. Problems like bad breath and gingivitis can be completely cured if you start looking after your oral hygiene seriously after quitting smoking.


It is better late than never. If you are ready to kick this habit and start your journey towards a healthy and modest lifestyle, our dentist in High Wycombe can help you out. Conway House Dental Practice promotes good oral health and helps you with your dental problems due to smoking. Our teeth whitening services and regular oral cancer screening checkups can keep your health on track. Book an appointment today and take your first step towards smoking cessation.

We are a friendly team of dentists, hygienists and receptionists who work together to ensure that you receive the best treatment you require.

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