Smoking and Oral Health


Tobacco use

A harmful oral habit is the use of tobacco. Here are some oral problems that may occur with the use of tobacco.

Oral Side Effects of Tobacco

  • sticky tar deposits or brown staining on the teeth
  • ‘smoker’s palate’ – red inflammation on the roof of the mouth
  • delayed healing of the gums
  • increased severity of gum disease
  • bad breath or halitosis
  • black hairy tongue
  • oral lesions
  • gum recession – with chewing tobacco at the site of the tobacco “wad”, the gums react by receding along the tooth root, exposing the root
  • oral cancer

Hazards of Tobacco

One of the most devastating effects of tobacco is the development of oral cancer. Approximately 75% of all oral cancers in North America are associated with tobacco use and alcohol consumption. The risk of oral cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked each day and the number of years that the person has been smoking.

Benefits of Tobacco Cessation

The most significant preventive measure used to prevent oral cancer is cessation of tobacco products. When a person stops using tobacco, the risk of developing oral cancer drops rapidly. In 10 years of tobacco use cessation, the risk is similar to an individual who has never smoked. Oral cancer can be prevented by choosing to be a non-tobacco user.
Quitting tobacco use is very difficult, since it is an addiction. There can be temporary withdrawal symptoms that occur a short period after your last tobacco use.
A few “quitting” aids have been found to help users. These aids decrease withdrawal symptoms and the craving for tobacco. Some examples are:

  • the nicotine patch
  • nicotine gum
  • nicotine inhaler
  • nicotine nasal spray

All of these aids are beneficial if the individual is motivated to quite, and if used at the same time with counseling or self-help groups. Your dental office may offer a tobacco use cessation program as more and more dental offices are becoming involved in such programming. Other program sources may be medical and nursing associations, heart and lung associations, or even a community center.