How Cigarette Smoking Affects The Teeth, Gums, and Tongue

Drilling Cavity Little Rock

Cigarette smoking among adults in the U.S. hit an all-time low of 14% in 2017, down from 42.4% in 1965. Unfortunately, this still means that tens of millions of Americans are placing themselves at risk for developing lung cancer, heart disease, and dozens of other diseases and illnesses that are caused by smoking.

Cigarette smoke not only impacts your heart and lungs, but it also adversely affects smokers’ oral health, damaging the teeth, gums, and tongue.

In addition to cigarettes, vaping using electronic cigarette devices (usually called e-cigarettes) has risen in popularity among younger generations, and although it’s generally considered “safer,” smoke is still introduced into the body and with it a number of other chemicals and inhalants.

Learn about the short and long-term effects of smoking and how it impacts your oral health.

Common Dental Problems Caused by Cigarette Smoking

Tooth Discoloration

Cigarette smoke is thick enough to stain painted walls, windows, and even car seats, so it should come as no surprise that it’s able to stain teeth as well. A regular smoker’s teeth typically exhibit a more yellowish color. This often results in higher dental care costs, as smokers must whiten their teeth more frequently.

Discolored teeth not only look bad, but they can negatively impact your career and social life. Many professional careers depend on a clean appearance, and if your teeth are yellowed or stained from using cigarettes, it may impact your job prospects.

Additionally, yellow teeth can affect your social life. If you’re dating or looking to meet new people, your yellow teeth might be telling people you have poor hygiene. In-office teeth whitening might be ideal if you’ve quit smoking and want a cosmetic dentist to restore your smile.

We work with a number of whitening products, including the GLO Science Teeth Whitening system. And if you have more questions about teeth whitening, check out our teeth whitening FAQ page for help!

Teeth Whitening FAQ

Tooth Decay

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco cigarette smoke contains some 7,000 chemicals, including acetone, acetic acid, ammonia, arsenic, benzene, butane, cadmium, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, lead, naphthalene, methanol, nicotine, tar, and toluene. Many of these chemicals attack and break down the protective enamel covering the teeth, making the prone to decay.

The increased risk of tooth decay among smokers places them at a higher risk for losing teeth. And losing just a single tooth can shift other teeth out of position.

If you experience severe tooth decay from prolonged smoking and other poor hygiene habits, you might have to undergo some of the following:

Gum Disease

The average smoker is 2-3 times more likely to develop severe gum disease than a non-smoker. Severe gum disease can contribute to a number of issues with the soft tissue in your mouth, but can also lead to bone loss in the jaw.

As the plaque and bacteria multiply, they will make their way across the tooth’s surface while heading toward the gums. If left untreated, gum disease can progress to tooth loss. This is why it’s important to floss at least once a day, pulling the plaque and food debris away from your gums, and also why most dentists advise that smokers work on quitting the habit.

Tongue Cancer

Nearly 10,000 Americans are diagnosed with tongue cancer each year. Several studies have found a direct link to cigarette smoke and higher rates of tongue cancer. The condition usually begins as small white bumps that gradually grow larger if left untreated. Tongue cancer is usually curable if diagnosed and treated early, but if a smoker with tongue cancer does not take action quickly, the cancer can spread to the lymphatic system and other areas of the body.

Loss of Taste

Long-term use of tobacco cigarettes will dull the taste buds, making food and beverages just a little less enjoyable. The thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the taste buds, resulting in duller, less intense flavors. Many former smokers report a positive change in taste after kicking the habit.

A Note on Vaping and E-Cigarettes

Although cigarette smoking has dropped significantly in the past fifty years, e-cigarettes have become a popular alternative to traditional smoking. Also called “vaping,” using e-cigarettes has an unknown effect on overall health and is typically more prevalent among teens compared to adults.

Although the overall health effects of e-cigarette usage are still being studied, introducing smoke into the lungs is a known outcome of using these devices. In general the medical community, including dentists, does not recommend using them.

Contact Our Little Rock Dentists

Although quitting smoking can be difficult at first, learning coping strategies and making steps towards healthier habits can pay off dramatically. Your dentist can provide support as you work on kicking your habit and choosing a healthier future.

To learn more about how to prevent tooth decay and gum diseases, contact Little Rock Family Dental Care today!