The Effect of Tobacco on Oral Health

caption stating smokers are 4x more likely to lose their teeth.
Image by Authority Dental under CC 2.0

It’s no secret that tobacco can cause a variety of health problems. It can also affect a patient’s oral health status. Regular tobacco usage, whether smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco, can affect a person’s breath, teeth, gums, tongue, jawbone, throat, and the inside of their mouth.

Gum Disease, Tooth Decay & Tooth Loss

Smokers are two times more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers. Smoking weakens your body’s resistance to infections. Therefore it is easier for harmful bacteria in the mouth to cause an infection in the gums. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and bacteria are able to multiply faster and cause cavities and plaque buildup in and around the gums. When periodontal disease becomes severe, it can also lead to tooth loss. Teeth that become very decayed may also need to be removed and replaced.

Oral Cancer

When it comes to smoking and cancer, most people are more concerned about lung cancer than anything else. However, smokers are ten times more likely to develop oral cancer due to the carcinogenic chemicals that are consistently present in the mouth and throat. Oral cancer symptoms can include red or white patches in the mouth, mouth sores that don’t heal, and enlarged neck lymph nodes. Reducing alcohol consumption in addition to reducing tobacco usage can also decrease a patient’s risk of developing oral cancer.

Slower Recovery Times

Smoking can cause the body to have a harder time healing, which can cause complications for patients who need treatments like oral surgery. Since smoking also dries out the mouth and increases the patient’s risk of developing an infection, patients should not smoke after they receive oral surgery. Patients who have dental implants placed, for example, are advised to quit smoking for at least eight weeks after their implant placement to reduce their risk of implant failure, which is when a dental implant does not fuse with the jawbone and must be removed.

Preventive Dental at Riverstone Dental Care

Regular preventive dental exams and cleanings are essential for good oral health but they are even more important for smokers. A screening for oral cancer is part of our routine exam. Like other cancers, oral cancer is much more treatable when caught in its early stages. Don’t put off your preventive care visit! We look forward to seeing you at either our office in Coeur d’Alene or our office in Post Falls. We’ll monitor your oral health and watch for early signs of oral cancer.


Riverstone Dental Care