Smoking can lead to lung cancer and many other medical conditions, but it can also cause a host of oral health problems. If left untreated, those issues can lead to gum disease, tooth loss, tooth decay, cancer, and other problems.
Smoking can cause many problems in the mouth, such as bad breath, tooth discoloration, inflammation of the salivary glands on the roof of the mouth, buildup of plaque and tartar, loss of bone in the jaw, increased risk of leukoplakia (white patches in the mouth), gum disease that can lead to tooth loss, delayed healing after oral treatment procedures, failure of dental implant procedures, and oral cancer.
Smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes and chewing tobacco can affect the attachment of bone and soft tissue to the teeth, which can lead to gum disease. This makes smokers susceptible to infections, such as periodontal disease. It can also reduce blood flow to the gums, which can slow healing.
Research has found that smoking cigars and pipes is just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes for tooth loss, bone loss, periodontal disease, bad breath, stained teeth, and oral cancer. Smokeless tobacco carries the same risks, in addition to the threat of gum recession, which can expose the roots of teeth and make them prone to sensitivity and decay. Sugars in smokeless tobacco also increase the risk of tooth decay.
If you smoke, quitting can greatly reduce your risk of developing these problems. Reducing the amount you smoke can also lower your risk.
Your doctor or dentist can help you quit smoking with medication and nicotine gum or patches. You can also attend a smoking cessation class or support group that is offered by your local hospital, employer, or insurance company. Other treatments, such as herbal remedies, hypnosis, and acupuncture, are helpful for some people.