Why Is Smoking So Bad For Your Mouth And Teeth?

It's no secret that smoking causes bad breath. But on top of this, smoking is simply horrible for your oral health. Whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars, hookah, or some other form of tobacco, doing so is basically asking for extra dental appointments. Here's a closer look at how and why tobacco is so bad for your mouth, along with some tips for better oral care as you work on quitting.

How does smoking harm your teeth and gums?

Dry Mouth

Tobacco smoke leaves your mouth dry, which allows oral bacteria to flourish. This increases not only your risk of tooth decay but also your risk of gum disease -- which is essentially an infection of the gums.


The bacteria that flourish due to mouth dryness secrete acids. These acids slowly wear away the enamel on your teeth, leading to cavity formation. Cavities start off quite small; they often don't even cause symptoms. So it's easy for them to go unnoticed until they're extensive and your only option is to have a tooth extracted or covered with a crown.

Loose Teeth

Gum disease starts off with inflamed gums that might bleed a little. Over time, however, it moves into the periodontal ligaments and leads to increasingly loose teeth. Within a year or two, you may lose a few teeth due to the effects of smoking. To fight serious gum disease, your dentist may have to perform an oral surgery in which grafts are made from the tissue in your upper mouth.

Oral Cancer

Lung cancer is the best-known cancer brought on by tobacco smoke, but the carcinogens in smoke also impact your oral tissue. Oral cancer progresses quickly and often requires surgical removal of the affected tissues. This can lead to permanent disfigurement and trouble eating.

How can you minimize damage to your oral health?

Obviously the best thing you can do for your teeth and gums is to quit smoking. While you're working on that, there are a few measures you can take to minimize the impact of smoke on your oral tissues.

Keep your mouth moist.

Sip water throughout the day -- especially after you smoke. This will help prevent oral bacteria from accumulating in your dry mouth.

Use mouthwash.

Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash after every brushing session. It will kill more oral bacteria than brushing alone.

Visit the dentist.

Make sure you see your dentist at least every 6 months for checkups. This way, if you do start developing cavities, oral cancer, or gum disease, it will be detected and treated early on before it has a chance to progress.