Tobacco Use and Your Oral Health

Most people are aware that smoking and chewing tobacco can have adverse effects on their overall health—it should be no surprise that tobacco use can also negatively impact oral health.

Here are some ways smoking and smokeless-tobacco can cause damage to your mouth, gums, and teeth:

Stained Teeth

Teeth have pores just like your skin—when you put things into your mouth, the color may absorb into those pores and cause the natural color of your teeth to darken. Although nicotine is colorless on its own, when combined with oxygen, it turns yellow. This means, that when smoking, vaping, or smokeless tobacco products that contain nicotine, they can stain your teeth yellow!

These stains are often difficult to remove because they are the result of years of smoking. The stains may settle deep in the enamel and can even seep into the outer layer of dentin.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is an infection of the gums that starts when bacteria on your teeth make their way under your gums. In severe cases, this can cause teeth to fall out.

Using tobacco products weakens your body’s ability to fight infection. Once you have gum disease, smoking also makes it harder for your gums to heal. Here are ways smoking affects your risk of developing gum disease:

  • Your risk for gum disease is doubled compared to a non-smoker.

  • The longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop gum disease.

  • Treatment options may not work as well as they would for a non-smoker.

Oral Cancer

Tobacco products, especially when combined with alcohol consumption, are the main causes of oral cancer. According to a study done by the University of California, San Francisco, more than eight out of ten oral cancer patients were smokers.

Some symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Sores

  • irritation

  • White or red patches

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in the mouth or lips

  • Difficulty moving your tongue

  • A change in the way your teeth fit together

If any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist.