Why Smoking is Bad For Your Teeth

two people smoking

Everyone knows that when it comes to things that are bad for your health, smoking is right at the top of the list. Nicotine consumption has proven links to a variety of serious and even fatal conditions including asthma, emphysema and lung cancer. However, smoking also has another effect that may not get as much attention, but is also detrimental to your wellbeing – the impact on your dental health.

  • 16% of smokers have poor dental health, four times the rate of people who have never smoked.

  • More than a third of smokers have at least three dental health issues.

  • Smokers are 64% more likely to develop gum disease.

  • Smokers are more at risk of developing oral cancer than non-smokers.

Smoking and tooth decay

Smokers have been shown to have more tartar than non-smokers. Tartar is the hardened form of plaque, and is much more difficult to remove. It appears as a yellow or brown residue on the teeth, usually starting on the gum line. Tartar gives plaque more surface area to grow and stick to, meaning that decay happens rapidly. It is also extremely porous, meaning that it absorbs stains easily affecting the appearance of your teeth.

Smoking accounts for 50% of periodontal disease in smokers

Studies have found that using tobacco may be one of the biggest risk factors in the development of periodontal disease, as smokers seem to be much more likely to develop the condition. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that slowly destroys the soft tissue and bone that anchor your teeth in place.

The risks of periodontal disease

In its earliest stages, periodontal disease often doesn’t cause any concern. This is because the symptoms and effects are extremely mild and easy to ignore such as gums that are red, swollen or bleeding slightly. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms worsen and can include:

  • Tooth discoloration

  • Foul breath

  • Infection

  • Tooth loss

Often, infections that begin in the gums can spread to other parts of the body including the major organs. This means that a dental infection caused by periodontal disease can actually impact on your overall wellbeing as well as just your oral health.

The impact of smoking on cosmetic dental treatment

Cosmetic dentistry has become increasingly popular over the last decade, as people strive to achieve a bright, confident and winning smile. Tooth whitening, dental implants and realignment treatments such as Invisalign® are some of the most popular choices of cosmetic dental treatment. However, smoking can drastically affect the outcome of any cosmetic procedures.

Nicotine is renowned for staining teeth, meaning that smokers who opt for tooth whitening procedures usually find their results short-lived. Many dentists will even refuse to perform whitening on smokers.

Dental implants are another common choice of treatment to replace single or multiple teeth that have been lost as a result of accident, injury or more dental health. However, periodontal disease causes the bone that supports the implant to weaken, which increases the likelihood that the implantation process will fail. Similarly, gum recession can impact on dental crowns and bridges, which are also used to restore the look and function of the teeth.

Smoking prolongs the healing process

Dental treatment is normally inevitable for everyone at some point in your life. However, it is believed that the chemicals found in tobacco interfere with the flow of blood to the gums. Any sort of healing in any part of the body requires a good flow of healthy blood, and so by smoking, a patient who requires surgical dental treatment may find that it takes them far longer to heal. They may also be at increased risk of post-surgery complications such as infection.


Smoking is bad news for your teeth and your body. To prolong your dental and overall health, the best step you can take it to quit today. Make an appointment with your dentist or doctor who will be happy to give you guidance and put you in touch with some support groups.