The Effects of Smoking on Your Teeth and Gums

Article | October 2016

The Effects of Smoking on Your Teeth and Gums

Using tobacco 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.

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

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.

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Smoking and Tobacco Use” http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/adult_data/cig_smoking/ January 2015

2The Oral Cancer Foundation. Retrieved from http://oralcancerfoundation.org/tobacco/#sthash.hejlWzyu.dpuf, June 25, 2015.

3NIH Publication No. 13-1142 September 2013. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease.

4American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/secondhand-smoke.html, February 2014.

5Mayo 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 August 2, 2015.

6Cancer.org, “Guide to Quit Smoking,” https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/guide-quitting-smoking.html, January 2014.

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.