The Effects of Smoking on Your Teeth and Gums

The Effects of Smoking on Your Teeth and Gums

Using tobacco and e-cigarettes hurts your whole body, including your mouth. It’s one of the biggest risk factors for gum disease.1 The tell-tale signs of tobacco use include receding gums, chronic bad breath, and stained or loose teeth. But more serious problems, such as oral cancer, can be harder to spot. Vaping is no better than using tobacco.

Specially related to oral health, smoking causes

  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth and tongue
  • Dulls sense of smell and taste
  • Increased buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth
  • Increased loss of bone within the jaw
  • Gum disease and tooth loss
  • Increased risk of leukoplakia, which is white patches inside the mouth
  • Slow healing after periodontal treatment, tooth extraction, or other surgery
  • Oral cancer
  • Lower success rate of dental implants

Don't be a statistic

  • About one in every five U.S. adults smokes.2
  • Smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S.3 It takes more than 480,000 lives each year. That's one of every five deaths.3

No Tobacco is "Safe"

Any form of tobacco can cause serious health problems. Chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products contain about 30 cancer-causing chemicals. Health problems linked to smokeless tobacco include:5

  • Addiction. These products have nicotine, which is addictive.
  • Cancer. Tobacco causes lots of types of cancers, including mouth, throat, esophagus, cheek, gum, lip, and tongue cancer.
  • Cavities. Chewing tobacco has a lot of sugar, which can erode your tooth enamel.
  • Gum disease. Tobacco's sugars and irritants can cause gum infections. Over time, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.
  • Heart disease. Some forms of smokeless tobacco raise heart rate and blood pressure. This can lead to heart disease and stroke.
  • Precancerous mouth lesions. Chewing tobacco can cause lesions where the chew is placed. These can become cancerous.

The Dangers of Second-Hand Smoke

Second-hand smoke has the same harmful chemicals that smokers inhale. It can cause health problems in people who don’t smoke. Children and babies are especially at risk. There's no “safe” level of exposure to second-hand smoke.4

What about vaping?

Vaping is the inhaling of a vapor created by an e-cigarette, or some other device. E-cigarettes are also called “e-cigs,” “vapes,” “e-hookahs,” “vape pens,” and look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items. Flavors make e-cigarettes very appealing to young people.

Scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has known health effects

  • Nicotine is highly addictive.
  • Nicotine can harm adolescent brain development, which can continue into the early to mid-20s.
  • Nicotine is a health danger for pregnant women and their developing babies.
  • Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid.

Vaping has been shown to lead to an increase in cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems. People who vape also have much higher chance of developing gum recession, tooth sensitivity, gum disease, tooth loss, and tooth damage due to clenching or grinding. E-cigarettes can cause facial injuries, such as burns, bone fractures, and lost teeth if the battery catches fire.

Be a Quitter

Quitting is good for your mouth, and your health. It lowers your risk of a heart attack, stroke, or cancer, including oral cancer.6 The benefits of quitting start within minutes, and last a lifetime:

  • Minutes after your last cigarette, your body starts healing.
  • 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • Two weeks to three months after quitting, your blood flow improves and your lungs work better.
  • One year after quitting, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
  • Five years after quitting, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Your cervical cancer risk is the same as a nonsmoker's. Your stroke risk can be the same as a nonsmoker's after two to five years.

Ready to Kick the Habit?

You don’t have to do it alone. Get the help you need to quit smoking for good. Check out these resources for more support and information:

  • If you’re a Cigna customer, visit the myCigna® website for tools and tips to help you quit.
  • Call the national tobacco quitline: 1 (800) QUIT-NOW (1 (800) 784-8669).
  • Use free smartphone, tablet, or handheld computer apps, such as the National Cancer Institute’s QuitGuide.
  • Check out internet smoking cessation programs, such as smokefree.gov, which also have chat rooms for extra support.
  • Ask your health care provider for tips, tools, and support.

Dentist shows X-ray to senior man

1 Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html

2 CDC: Smoking rate among US adults reaches all-time low, Healio, November 2018, https://www.healio.com/news/primary-care/20181108/cdc-smoking-rate-among-us-adults-reaches-alltime-low

3 Smoking and Tobacco Use, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/

4 Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  February 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/

5 Mayo Clinic, “Health risks of chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/chewing-tobacco/art-20047428?pg=2. Accessed May 14, 2021.

6 Effects of Smoking and Vaping on Oral Health, Better Health, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/smoking-and-oral-health, accessed May 2021.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult with your dentist for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations.