Smoking: How It Can Ruin Your Dental, Oral & Overall Health


Smoking can ruin your oral & overall health

Smoking is one of the most effective ways to create havoc to your teeth, gums and overall health. Of course, no one would like to be on the receiving end of gum disease, tooth loss, chronic halitosis and a host of widespread health problems. Still, this is a reality for a lot of smokers.
In this article, we’ll explain how the humble cigarette can turn your mouth (and body) into a veritable house of horrors.

Oral cancers

Your mouth is the first pitstop for cigarette smoke. As soon as you eagerly indulge in your first drag, you’re welcoming more than 7000 chemicals into your oral cavity, with over 70 of them being known to cause cancer (carcinogens). And it won’t just predispose you to cancers in the mouth, sinuses, saliva glands, tonsils or throat; it can help cause other heart and lung diseases, too. And all of them are deadly, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

FACT: Tobacco exposure is a risk factor and cause of most head and neck cancers and oesophageal cancer. According to Tobacco in Australia, in 2009, a meta-analysis reviewed 85 studies that included data over 50,000 people with head and neck cancers. The risk of contracting these diseases is approximately four times higher for smokers.

FACT: Smoking account for at least 30 per cent of all cancer deaths in the US.

Gum (periodontal) disease

Gum disease is common, even among non-smokers, but that doesn’t mean it’s no big deal. If left untreated, it causes your gums to be inflamed and infected pockets of bacteria forming (known as periodontal pockets). As the infection worsens, your gums, ligaments and teeth are damaged, which can result in your teeth loosening or even falling out.

FACT: It’s estimated that about 32 per cent of the population affected by moderate to severe periodontitis are smokers. And about 700,000 Australian adults are affected by gum disease due to their smoking.

Why are smokers more at risk of gum disease?

It is suggested that smoking helps increase the risk of gum disease in several ways.

Toothbrushes for dental hygiene ⇒ Dry mouth: Smoking dries the mouth, so there is not enough beneficial bacteria-fighting saliva

⇒ Altered saliva: The saliva of smokers is thicker than non-smokers. Therefore, it cannot clean the mouth and teeth as well. Additionally, smoking alters the balance of bacteria in the mouth. It is more acidic than non-smokers, increasing your risk of oral and dental disease. Give up smoking, though, and the bacterial balance of your saliva can return after ten years. Ten years is a long time, though, so it’s a good idea to start soon!

⇒ Plaque formation: As mentioned above, bacteria thrive and plaque forms without the necessary saliva to wash away sugars and acids.

⇒ Depressed immune system: Smoking also depresses your immune system, allowing bacterial infections in your mouth to flourish and impairs any regeneration of your gum tissues – making it easier for gum disease to take hold.

⇒ Reduced blood flow/impaired oxygen delivery: Smoking is a vasoconstrictor, so when you smoke, there is less circulation to your gum tissue, and less oxygen and nutrients are delivered. This makes it a perfect breeding ground for plaque to thrive and gum tissue to deteriorate.

Symptoms of gum disease

There are two stages of gum disease:

⇒ Stage I: Gingivitis – which is reversible (meaning, if you take action early, you can get rid of it)

SYMPTOMS: Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums – particularly after brushing teeth or flossing; bad breath.

⇒ Stage II: Periodontitis – which is not reversible (meaning: once you have it, it won’t go away. Instead, you must manage it through regular professional cleaning, medications and home treatments)

SYMPTOMS: Along with the above symptoms, Stage II symptoms include receding gums, tooth loosening, sensitive teeth and tooth loss.


Cavities (or caries) are created when a buildup of bacteria eats sugars in the mouth and produces acids as a byproduct. These acids eat into the tooth enamel until they reach the pulp tissue. This causes pain and infection, and if not treated with fillings, you might need your tooth extracted. Studies show that smoking promotes the growth of this bacteria, which increases the risk of caries. Further, as explained above,  smoking dries the mouth, making it more challenging to wash away the bacteria.

Bad breath

smoking and bad breath According to SA Health, tobacco use is one of the most common causes of bad breath. Why so? Smoking allows bacteria to proliferate and tartar to build up, so your breath smells worse. You’re also likely to hold more bacteria on the back of your mouth, which will smell. And, as you have a higher risk of gum disease or cavities, this can also contribute to bad breath. Finally, smoking tobacco leaves a stale, tell-tale scent that is hard to disguise.

Things can also get worse on the bad breath front. And it gets more serious. Studies show that smokers who develop lung cancer produce a distinctly unpleasant sulphur smell caused by several volatile organic compounds or VOCs. Unfortunately, though, this indicative smell will be the least of your worries, as lung cancer is no laughing matter.    

FACT: Tobacco use is one of the most common causes of bad breath.

Yellow teeth

Smoking tobacco stains and yellows your teeth. The tar and nicotine from cigarette smoke attach to the surface of the teeth to make them look yellow.

Quit Smoking Quit Smoking

Of course, many smokers know that it’s bad for them, but as smoking is highly addictive, quitting can be hard. If you’d like to improve your health and prevent disease and chronic ill health, get help today – even if you’re not quite ready to quit yet. Call 13 7848

Book an Appointment Today

Talk to our friendly dentists about your smoking and dental health soon - even if you're not quite ready to quit.

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