How Does Smoking Impact Your Oral Health?

When you think of the negative consequences of smoking, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Most people would respond "lung cancer." While your lungs certainly take a beating when you spend years puffing on cigarettes, they're not the only body part that suffers. Smoking also has a terrible effect on your oral health. Here's a look at four ways smoking harms your teeth, gums, and other oral tissues.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is more than just a little gum soreness. It's a progressive infection that can eventually lead to loose and missing teeth if it's not treated properly. And when you smoke, you're almost certain to struggle with gum disease. Since the same bacteria that cause gum disease also cause tooth decay, you can expect cavities to begin developing, too. Brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly will help somewhat, but your gum disease is unlikely to clear up entirely until you stop smoking.

Salivary Gland Inflammation and Blockages

The toxins in tobacco smoke irritate your cheek tissues, including those around your salivary glands. These tissues swell in response to the irritation, causing them to block the flow of saliva from the salivary glands. As a result, you'll often find that your mouth feels dry. This is not just annoying -- dry mouth causes oral bacteria to flourish, which only serves to make your gum disease and tooth decay worse. Dry mouth also leads to bad breath.


Leukoplakia are white spots that form on the cheek tissue inside your mouth. These patches are not always signs of oral cancer, though they can be. Leukoplakia are generally painless, but they are often sensitive if you touch them or if you eat hot or spicy foods. If you develop leukoplakia, you'll need to have them checked out by a dentist or physician to ensure they're not cancerous. Oftentimes, the lesions won't go away until you quit smoking.

Tooth Discoloration

Nobody wants yellow, stained teeth, but as a smoker, you're pretty much destined for a future of tooth discoloration. While professional whitening treatments may lighten them somewhat, they won't remove the deepest, darkest staining. In order to have truly white teeth again, you may have to opt for expensive veneers or crowns.

Quitting smoking is about more than just protecting your lungs. It's about protecting your teeth, gums, and other tissues, too. You need your teeth to smile and to eat, so it only makes sense to do all that you can to protect them.

If you've quit smoking and are concerned about your oral health, visit a dental clinic, such as Suncoast Dental Center, as soon as you are able.