The Relationship Between Smoking and Oral Health

January 13, 2022 1
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According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 54,000 people will be diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer this year. People who smoke are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer, gum problems and complications after oral surgery. Smokers have a lowered resistance to infections and healing.

People who stop smoking lower their risk of developing gum disease and oral cancer. It also improves the person’s response to gum treatment. It is very important for smokers to visit their dentists regularly to keep their teeth and gums healthy and have regular oral cancer screenings.

Oral health problems

There are several problems that can affect people who smoke. The most common problems include:

  • Periodontal disease
  • Oral cancer
  • Smoker’s keratosis, a whitening of the oral mucus membrane
  • Reduced resistance to infections
  • Stained teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste

Periodontal disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is caused by an infection that damages the bone surrounding your teeth. This bone holds your teeth into your jawbone and allows you to chew comfortably. Bacteria and plaque can cause gum disease if left untreated. Plaque hardens and forms tartar in your mouth. The plaque and calculus irritate the gums around your teeth. As gum disease progresses, more bone is lost. Teeth become loose and may fall out.

Smokers typically do not have bleeding gums as they have poor blood supply to the gums, so their gum disease is often masked. Research from the Oral Cancer Foundation shows tobacco use is a major risk factors for developing oral cancer. People who smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day are two times more likely to develop gum disease. This increases to four to five times more likely in heavier smokers. The more cigarettes smoked, the worse the gum disease. Smokers do not respond as well to gum treatment as non-smokers.

Symptoms of gum disease

Dentists are trained to screen for oral cancer so regular visits to your dentist care important to your oral health. You should see your dentist right away if you notice any signs and symptoms of gum disease, which including:

  • Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums
  • Pus discharge coming from your gums
  • Gums that are loose and pull away from your teeth
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Spaces opening between your teeth

Oral cancer

Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth, including the tongue, cheek, palate, mouth and lips. Oral cancer in smokers is most likely to occur on the side of the tongue and the floor of the mouth. Treatment for oral cancer includes surgery, radiotherapy and tooth extractions.

Symptoms of may have oral cancer

Please see your dentist immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Persistent ulcer in your mouth or on your lip that does not disappear after seven to 10 days.
  • White patch in your mouth
  • Red patch in your mouth
  • Swelling in your mouth
  • Dentures suddenly not fitting properly

Poor healing after dental treatments

People who smoke are more likely to develop a ‘dry socket’. This is a poorly healing tooth socket after a tooth extraction and can be very painful. People who smoke are also more likely to have pain after other oral and gum surgery.

It is important to look after your oral health to prevent gum disease. Regular visits to your dentist are recommended to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Contact our Tehachapi dental office if you have any dental problems.


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