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How Cigarette Smoking Affects Your Oral Health

Posted on January 20th, 2015

How Cigarette Smoking Affects Your Oral Health

“All my friends have dentures. I’m getting some too!”

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But if teens could see into the future, it’s what they might be saying when they are in their later years. Not very glamorous, is it?

The #1 reason teens give for starting to smoke is ‘All my friends are doing it’. The need to be cool sometimes supersedes warnings given by parents. Teens simply can’t identify with becoming an adult, let alone –  gasp!  – making it past middle age.

By the time they realize their teeth are stained and they have gum disease, it’s too late. They’re addicted.

 Caring Tree Children's Dentistry and How Cigarette Smoking Affects Your Oral Health
Stains from cigarettes aren’t very attractive

Aside from the health risks most of us associate with smoking cigarettes such as lung cancer and emphysema, smokers are putting their oral health at great risk.

Here are some of the effects smoking has on your teeth and gums:

  • Smokers are at far greater risk for developing cavities. Decreased saliva flow, increased tarter and plaque, and higher pH levels in the mouth are a few of the reasons a smoker is much more likely to harbor the cavity causing bacteria Streptococcus Mutans in higher than normal concentrations.



  • Gum disease. Smokers are 11 times more likely than nonsmokers to have the bacteria P. Gingivalis in their mouths, making them four times more likely to develop advanced periodontal disease.

Think of it this way:  If you split twenty of your friends into two groups – ten who smoke and ten who don’t – and two from the non-smoking group eventually develop gum disease, a full eight from the smoking group will do so. Imagine not being able to chew your food.  You might not be able to enjoy burgers or pizza, just soft foods like oatmeal – for the rest of your life.

How Cigarette Smoking Affects Your Oral Health
How many of your friends will develop gum disease?


  • Brushing and flossing are necessary for healthy teeth and gums, but if you smoke, it won’t be enough. With the reduced blood flow to your gums, your body simply can’t heal itself.


  • Oral cancer. Cancer of the mouth, tongue, cheek, lips, tonsils and salivary glands is five times more prevalent in smokers. If you haven’t ever seen photos of someone who is missing part of their face due to cancer of the oral cavity, search Google Images for ‘advanced oral cancer’. The images are sad and shocking.


If you develop gum disease, you are also at risk for other diseases as a result. Here are a few:

  • Heart disease. You will be more than twice as likely to develop coronary valve disease if you have gum disease.
  • Memory problems. You may develop Alzheimer’s disease. A study cited in Prevention magazine found that those people with the fewest teeth were most likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s or other dementia related diseases.
  • Breathing issues. The Journal of Periodontology found a link between gum disease and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), which causes difficulty in breathing.

Are you safe if you choose not to smoke but your friends do?

Likely not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that ‘involuntary smokers’ – meaning those who are exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, vehicles, and public places have significant increased odds of developing tooth decay. Their study found that 45 million Americans who smoke impact the dental health of more than 126 million Americans who don’t smoke.

Fortunately, when smokers quit, their oral health gradually recovers. It may take a long time, however, to return your mouth to the health you enjoyed prior to smoking.  An article published on Delta Dental’s website cites a study which concluded that those who had not smoked or been exposed to smoke for eleven years were at the same risk as those who had never smoked.

We hope you have a better understanding of how cigarette smoking affects your oral health. Love your teeth – love yourself.

If you haven’t started smoking – don’t.  If you need any incentive to refrain from starting, just imagine yourself as a 40 year old with bad breath, missing teeth, numerous crowns, a weak heart, and terrible memory who lives on oatmeal.





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