You know it can affect your lungs, but here’s how smoking ruins your teeth.
Let’s get one thing straight— smoking is not good for your health. Besides causing around 20 percent of deaths in the United States, it also wreaks havoc on your teeth, gums, and mouth.
If you still think it’s not a big deal to light one up every once in a while, then you should be aware of the potential risks to your smile. Here are a few eye-opening effects of smoking that might change your mind.
How Smoking Hurts Your Teeth
Smoking can lead to a variety of oral health problems, including:
1. Receding gums and gum disease
Smoking increases bacteria and plaque buildup on teeth and under the gums. The gums may become inflamed, bleed easily, and pull away (recede) from the teeth. This makes the gums look red and swollen instead of a normal, healthy pink. Plus, it can cause serious discomfort and make things like brushing your teeth more difficult. You may notice some blood when you spit out your toothpaste or after flossing.
2. Gum infections that won’t go away
Smoking can weaken your immune system, which makes it harder to fight off gum infections. To make it worse, once you have an infection, the healing process may take longer. What might take a few weeks to heal normally could take several months for people who smoke.
3. Oral cancer
All tobacco products contain carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). You probably know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, but it can also lead to oral cancer. Smoking causes damage to the cells in the mouth, which allows abnormal cells to grow and become unmanageable. Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of head and neck cancers.
4. Tooth staining
In 2020, around 37 million Americans used products to whiten their teeth, according to Statista, so it seems that a bright smile is something many Americans value. When it comes to stained teeth, cigarettes are a big culprit. That’s because little holes in your teeth, called pores, soak up nicotine and tar while you’re smoking. This causes tooth enamel to turn yellow or brown.
How To Maintain a Healthy Smile
There are some things you can do to keep your smile looking fabulous. These can include:
- Brush at least twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco
Quitting isn’t easy, so talk to your doctor to find programs that can help. It’s also helpful to talk to other people who have quit smoking and been in your position. Reach out to anyone you may know or try to join a support group.
- Cancer. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)
- Gum (periodontal) disease. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)
- Head and neck cancers. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)
- Home oral care recommendations to reduce the risk of caries and gum disease. Chicago, IL: American Dental Association. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)
- Tobacco use and cessation. Chicago, IL: American Dental Association, 2019. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)
- U.S. population: usage of tooth whiteners from 2011 to 2024. Statista. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)