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Most of us know smoking is bad…bad for overall health, bad for those who hang out with smokers (second-hand smoke), bad during pregnancy, bad for your lungs, bad since nicotine is highly addictive, this list goes on and on.  In this blog we are focusing on smoking and oral health.  Read on to learn some things of which you may not be aware.

Smoking can negatively impact your oral health in a number of ways, some obvious, some not so obvious:

  • Reduced blood flow and the supply of vital nutrients to gums, including Vitamin C.  Without proper nutrients, gum disease and bone loss can develop and even tooth loss.
  • Decreased amount of saliva.  Saliva is important for cleaning the mouth and preventing tooth decay.
  • Smoking affects the appearance of teeth, making them discolored with the yellow and brown stains that nicotine and tar leave behind.
  • Inflammation of the roof of the mouth.
  • Bad Breath
  • Lost sense of taste.

Most importantly, smoking causes oral cancer.  More than 43,000 Americans and 4,000 Canadians were expected to be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer in 2015, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths, or about one per hour.  If oropharyngeal (throat) cancer is included, the number of expected deaths increases to more than 15,000 per year.

Cigar smoking is NOT safe because cigars contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds that cigarettes do.  Cigar smoking increases your risk for oral cancer, lung cancer, and larynx and esophageal cancers.  Smokeless tobacco use increases the risk for developing gum disease as well as gum recession (the pulling away of gum from the teeth.)  Smokeless tobacco users are 4 to 6 more times likely to develop oral cancer from chewing tobacco.  In fact, the area of your mouth where smokeless tobacco is placed is 50 times more likely to be a site of oral cancer.


The use of battery-operated electronic nicotine-delivery systems, such as electronic cigarettes, is not recommended.  E-cigarettes have grown in popularity over the past decade and there is currently not a lot of research available about how they may affect your health.  However, experts say the nicotine inhalation that occurs while using an e-cigarette can cause susceptibility to bacteria buildup in the mouth, as well as tooth decay and dry mouth.

After all of that, CAN I QUIT?

The nicotine found in tobacco products is highly addictive, so quitting can be difficult.  But there are ways to successfully stop using tobacco.  These include nicotine replacement therapies, such as nasal spray and inhalers, patches, and gum and lozenges, all of which are available over the counter.  A variety of prescription medications are available as well.  For some, smoking-cessation support groups also are a very helpful resource in the quitting process and they are available in both in-person and online community formats.

If you’re a smoker, it’s never too late to quit.  Research has shown that quitting at any age will improve health and increase longevity.  Talk with your dentist or other health care provider for more information on how to quit.

reprinted in part from AGD Impact/January 2016/Fact Sheet/Smoking

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