Oral Health Concerns for Smokers

Oral Health Concerns for Smokers

Ali Fadakar -

The Center for Disease Control reveals that 21% of U.S. citizens 18 years or older are smokers. Active as of September 2012, The Food and Drug Administration will begin designating large pictorial labels to tobacco products. The goal is to encourage the public to quit smoking by showcasing the health hazards more distinctly.

Oral Health Concerns:

"Smoking dries out the mouth and stops the flow of saliva, which helps wash away debris to keep the mouth clean. As a result, bacteria begin to grow and multiply on and in between the teeth, and inside the grooves of the tongue, contributing to inflamed gums, bone loss and bad breath," says Dr. Smigel. Additionally, the Academy of General Dentistry warns that smoking one pack of cigarettes each day for 10 years may lead to tooth loss—at an estimated loss of two teeth per decade.

Unfortunately, smokers are at high risk for even more serious dental health problems:

  • Oral cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Gum disease
  • Swelling/Inflammation of the salivary glands
  • Periodontal disease



Tobacco stains, tooth loss, and swollen, irritated or unusually red gums are some of the effects that smoking has on a person's appearance.

Fortunately, there are at-home teeth whitening procedures available that effectively rid teeth of the yellowish-brown stains caused by smoking. Since smokers are at higher risk for dental health problems, we recommend choosing your teeth-whitening system wisely. (See our guide to Safe Teeth Whitening.)

It's important to note that, after whitening teeth, if a person continues to smoke, their teeth will stain again.

Teeth stains are the least of it. Smoking can cause advanced gum disease which can cause permanent tooth loss and damage. In certain cases dentures and bridges may be necessary.

Smoking is also a main cause of premature aging of the skin—particularly wrinkles on the face. Since nicotine deprives the skin of both oxygen and nutrients, smoking will speed up the signs of aging. In addition, the repeated tightening and contracting motions of the mouth while smoking will form deep lines around the mouth as well.

Smokeless Tobacco:

Just as unsafe as smoking, using chewing tobacco or snuff can also lead to dental health problems.

As Dr. Smigel says, "Prevention is the best form of dentistry." To keep your teeth and gums healthy, avoid smoking or chewing tobacco. Studies suggest that chewing gum can help mitigate tobacco cravings. If you choose to chew gum, opt for whitening gum that is sweetened only with xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sweetener and cavity fighter that tastes great too.