Smoking and Your Oral Health

Smoking and Your Oral Health

Smoking has many negative health consequences and is a risk factor for life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It also negatively affects oral health in many ways. Most people realize that tobacco products cause unattractive staining of teeth, but there are many other, more serious, effects to consider.

Oral Health Effects

For smokers, the risk of oral cancer is five to ten times greater than for a non-smoker. The risk is even higher when smoking is combined with alcohol use.


Smoking can lead to leukoplakia (thickened white patches) on the gums or cheeks. In some cases, this is a precancerous condition.

Being a smoker increased risk of periodontal disease, the break down of the bone and tissues that support the teeth. This can eventually lead to the loss of teeth.

Smoking causes poor blood flow, which means lower immunity to bacteria and poor healing of any lesions or inflamed areas in the mouth.

Smoking causes Nicotine Stomatitis also called “smoker’s palate.” The heat and chemicals from cigarettes cause the minor saliva glands on the roof of the mouth to become red and inflamed. This is usually not painful, but may be mildly irritating.

Smoking can cause dry mouth, which increases the risk of cavities and has other negative effects.

Smoking increases stain, plaque and tartar build-up.

Halitosis (bad breath), and altered or reduced taste can all be caused by smoking.

How does smoking cause oral cancer?

Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals, at least 70 or which are known to cause cancer. When you inhale the smoke into your mouth, the heat and chemicals from the smoke cause changes to the cells of the mouth. When abnormal cells begin to grow, this is cancer. Cigars contain similar chemicals as cigarettes and have the same risks. Chewing tobacco has direct contact with the tissues in the mouth, which exposes the tissues to cancer-causing chemicals.

Time to quit?


Quitting smoking can be very difficult. If you are thinking about quitting, there are resources to help make things easier. The use of smokeless (chewing) tobacco has similar risks, and similar quitting strategies can be used.

Tips for quitting:

Research shows that counseling and nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine patch, gum or lozenges) help to improve the odds of quitting successfully.

Speak with your healthcare provider. They can monitor your health as you quit and will have strategies to help you. There are prescription medications available to help with quit smoking.

Tell people that you plan to quit smoking. Enlist your friends and family as supports.


Pick a quit day. You may want to cut back on smoking as your quit day approaches.

For additional support, call the toll-free hotline (Canada) 1-866-366-3667 to speak with a quit coach specialist.

Start Now

The good news is that once you quit smoking, your body begins to get healthier almost immediately. Your risk of heart attack starts to drop after just 24 hours of being smoke-free, and as your time being smoke-free increases, the risk of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease decrease proportionally. The best thing you can do to improve your oral and overall health is to quit smoking, and there are lots of resources that can help. Start today!

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