Smoking and Dental Problems

person smoking a cigarette

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The legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products, including electronic nicotine delivery systems such as vape pens, in the U.S.

Most of us know that smoking is bad for our health, but did you know that smoking is also a major contributor to many dental problems? Cigarettes aren’t the only products only to blame. All forms of tobacco, including cigars, smokeless tobacco, and hookah water pipes, pose dental health concerns.

Dental Problems From Tobacco Use

Smoking greatly increases the risk of oral cancer, a disease that progresses rapidly and can be deadly if not diagnosed and treated early. Oral cancer is, unfortunately, a significant killer today due to the fact that it is diagnosed very late. Regular dental check-ups can help. 

Smokers also face an increased risk of gum disease, which is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. Tobacco use causes an imbalance in oral bacteria that promotes gum disease. Smoking, in particular, can slow down healing in the mouth, such as after having a tooth extracted.

Smoking damages gum tissue and causes receding gums, leaving the roots of the teeth exposed. This could increase the risk of tooth decay and cause hot/cold sensitivity due to the exposure of sensitive nerve endings that are covered by the gum line.

Additional risks include:

  • Bad breath due to a number of factors associated with smoke itself but also a bacterial imbalance in the mouth. 
  • Stains on teeth that can’t be removed with regular brushing. Smoking is one of the most common causes of tooth discoloration.
  • A build-up of tartar which could require you to get more frequent dental cleanings or otherwise may further increase your risk of gingivitis or gum disease.

Cigarettes and Cigars

Cigarettes and cigars contain several toxins associated with cancer. Not inhaling does not decrease your risk for dental problems which is a major misconception.

Smokeless Tobacco

Did you know that more nicotine is found in the dip and chew than cigarettes? Smokeless tobacco products also contain cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, cadmium, lead, and polonium.

Hookah Water Pipes

Hookah water pipe smoking has become popular in some areas lately. Unfortunately, the water in the pipes does not filter out all of the harmful toxins and it is unknown how these things react in the mouth. It’s thought they may be a factor in some dental diseases due to the flavoring and tobacco double hit.

How to Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking and/or other forms of tobacco right now can provide long-term health benefits including oral health. If you would like to quit, but don’t know how you should talk to your physician about how he or she can help.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hanioka T, Morita M, Yamamoto T, et al. Smoking and periodontal microorganisms. Jpn Dent Sci Rev. 2019;55(1):88-94. doi:10.1016/j.jdsr.2019.03.002

  2. Sanari AA, Alsolami BA, Abdel-Alim HM, Al-Ghamdi MY, Meisha DE. Effect of smoking on patient-reported postoperative complications following minor oral surgical procedures. Saudi Dent J. 2020;32(7):357-363. doi:10.1016/j.sdentj.2019.10.004

  3. Janbaz KH, Qadir MI, Basser HT, Bokhari TH, Ahmad B. Risk for oral cancer from smokeless tobacco. Contemp Oncol (Pozn). 2014;3:160-164. doi:10.5114/wo.2014.40524

By Tammy Davenport
Tammy Davenport is a dental assistant with experience on the clinical and administrative side.