Oral Health Hazards of Smoking

Oral health is definitely affected by smoking. You’ve probably heard about the link between tobacco and heart disease, stroke, and cancer, but do you know what smoking does to your teeth? Let’s examine the most common oral health problems associated with smoking.

Social Factors

  • Bad breath: The bacteria in your mouth mix with the tobacco and cause a bad odor. Brush your teeth or chew gum after smoking to help cover the smell.
  • Tooth discoloration: Cigarette smoke contains nicotine and tar that can form deposits on the surfaces of your teeth and stain your enamel. The discoloration ranges from yellow to gray, and you will probably need professional bleaching to restore your pearly whites.
  • Aging: Smoking can make you look older than you are by increasing your facial wrinkles and making your voice sound scratchy. Discolored teeth also indicate advanced years.

Dental Health

  • Gum disease: Smoking interferes with the normal function of gum tissue cells. It impairs blood flow to the gums, which slows the healing process. In addition, the interference makes your gums more prone to infections. Chemicals in tobacco can irritate gum tissue and cause gums to recede and pull away from your teeth, exposing your teeth roots. If gum disease is not treated, the bones supporting your teeth may also deteriorate and lead to tooth loss.
  • Plaque: Smoke deposits can cause plaque to build up on your teeth, increasing your risk of tooth decay and cavities. Some smokeless tobacco products also contain sugar for a sweeter taste, and sugar only promotes oral acid and tooth decay.
  • Dry mouth: Smoking can cause a decrease in saliva production. When saliva is not available to rinse your mouth, your risk of cavities and infections increases. Also, dry mouth can be uncomfortable and make your mouth feel itchy.
  • Dark gums:  Frequent exposure to smoke can stain the teeth and gums. Occasionally, it produces very dark or black gums. Many patients worry that the stains could be oral cancer.

Body health

  • Oral cancer: About 90 percent of people with oral cancer use tobacco. Oral cancer involves the lips, tongue, gums, and throat. Smokers are four to six times more likely to develop oral cancer than nonsmokers.
  • Mouth sores: The chemicals in tobacco can cause painful sores inside your mouth. Leukoplakia is a mouth condition common among tobacco users. Thick white patches form on the inside the cheeks or on gums. Mouth sores can be painful, uncomfortable, and some are early signs of cancer.
  • Loss of taste: Smoking obstructs your sense of taste by harming your taste buds. Everything you eat may have a smoky, sour, or bitter taste, so you may not enjoy your meals as much as you should.


Smokers should visit the dentist regularly, to check for any serious oral health problems, and maintain good oral hygiene routines. If smoking has destroyed your smile, Dr. Fondriest can cover and restore your teeth with cosmetic dentistry. Contact Lake Forest Dental Arts at 847-234-0517 to request an appointment. Our dental office in Lake Forest, Illinois serves the North Shore Chicago area, including Winnetka, Highland Park, North Brook, Glenview, and surrounding communities.