5 Ways Cigarette Smoking Damages Your Oral Health

Cigarette smoking is a hard habit to kick. For those that succeed in quitting, whether it’s cold turkey or gradual, it’s important to remind yourself of the reasons why. Physical and emotional motivators can be the most powerful, and therefore most likely to help you abstain.

While there are many known effects of nicotine abuse, such as cancer and shortened life span, some smokers overlook their oral health side effects.Oral health affects your entire body and it’s important to take care of your mouth. For those looking to quit, here are 5 powerful motivators to help you kick that habit!

Unhealthy Gums

White, discolored, and bleeding gums  are very common side effects seen in smokers. Healthy gums are naturally pink in color. Gingivitis, or periodontal disease, is common in smokers and causes tender, bleeding gums. Further, many cigarette smokers see their gums change to an off-white color. All of these are signs of unhealthy gums. The ingredients in tobacco products interfere with the normal function of tissue cells, which causes recession and even bone detachment. White gums can be painful and disrupt daily activities such as eating and drinking.


Bad breath/Halitosis is a side effect of tobacco use. For cigarette smokers, bad breath is caused by both nicotine and a vitamin-C deficiency. After smoking, cigarette and smoke particles are left to linger in the throat and lungs. Further, because smoke dries out your mouth, it leaves a climate that facilitates bacterial growth. Basically, the smoke, the chemicals, and the lasting environment all contribute to chronic bad breath. Yuck!

Oral Cancer

tongueThis is the most well known side effect of cigarette smoking, yet many smokers don’t know the extent of it. Oral cancer refers to cancer of the following areas:

  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Cheek lining
  • Gums
  • Palate (roof of mouth)
  • Floor of the mouth

The type of oral cancer most commonly found is “squamous cell carcinomas”. These involve epithelial cells on the surface of the skin and can often spread very quickly. This is why it is imperative to know the warning signs for oral cancer and to act accordingly. The most common symptoms of oral cancer are tenderness, or sore spots. Lymph nodes, which are located at the top of your neck, will also become inflamed and tender. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to go to your dentist or a health professional.

Loss of Taste and Smell

Many smokers experience a dulling of taste and smell because breathing in the hot fumes of smoke is toxic to the senses. It’s normally the loss of smell that comes first, and as a result your palate is unable to detect as many flavors/sensations. While the loss of smell and taste is gradual, many ex-smokers have reported that their senses returned quickly after quitting completely. Yet another powerful motivator for those looking to quit.


Presence of Leukoplakia, or white patches, which form on surfaces inside the mouth, tongue, and cheek. The patches themselves are defined as instances of keratosis, or the buildup of keratin on the skin. The causes of leukoplakia are relatively well defined. In broad terms, the keratin patches develop in response to prolonged irritation. The most common source of irritation that leads to leukoplakia is the use of tobacco. Whether smoked or chewed, tobacco is frequently attributed with causing the formation of the patches. While the patches are not generally harmful, they can cause discomfort and can easily be avoided.

These 5 motivators are just the tip to the iceberg when it comes to your health and negative side effects from cigarette smoking. While nicotine is a real addiction, keeping perspective and using motivators, such as your health, can help you achieve your goal to quit smoking.

About the Author: Alexis Goodrich publishes a dental health blog, BestDentistGuide.com, and you can also follow her on Twitter for all things dental @thedentistguide.

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