The effect of smoking on your mouth

As well as the obvious effects such as bad breath, stained tongue and stained teeth, it can also result in a diminished sense of taste.12 Smoking greatly increases the risk of periodontal disease (gum disease) and subsequent tooth loss. It impairs healing after oral surgery, decreases the likelihood that dental implants will be successful, and can cause oral cancer.2,3

The smoking and chewing of tobacco products can affect a person’s appearance, ranging from yellowed fingers to premature facial wrinkling. Smokers experience more wrinkling around the face and mouth, with tiny wrinkles spreading from the upper and lower lips. The risk of premature wrinkling increases the longer you smoke and the more cigarettes smoked.1,4

Up to 20% of Australians suffer from a form of periodontal disease.5,6 Smoking is a major risk factor and increases gum disease in different forms such as tooth loss, tooth sensitivity and increased tartar on the teeth.2,3 Smoking increases your chance of getting gum disease by approximately six times and increases the severity of gum disease by the same factor.7 This can cause serious destruction of the tissues around the teeth, which can result in tooth loss as well as pain. Smoking can also delay the healing of any injured tissues in the mouth, such as ulcers, or following oral surgery.2,3

Cigar smokers are also at increased risk of periodontal disease, staining of the teeth and tongue as well as bad breath.3

Oral cancers include cancers of the oral cavity, mouth and lip. In Australia, 57% of oral cancers in men and 51% in women are caused by smoking.8 Quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk of oral cancer. The risks are halved five years after smoking cessation.9 Also see the fact sheets ‘Smoking causes mouth and throat cancer’ and ‘Cigar smoking causes mouth and throat cancer’ for more information. Quitting smoking will improve your general dental health. Five days after quitting, your sense of taste will have improved.10

Quitting smoking can also benefit tooth retention, however it may take decades for the rate of tooth loss to return to the same as a non-smoker.11 Top of page

1. Action on Smoking and Health UK (ASH), ASH Briefing, Tobacco and Oral Health, November 2001;3.
2. American Council on Science and Health. Cigarettes: What the warning label doesn’t tell you. Second edition. New York, American Council on Science and Health, 2003.
3. American Dental Association, Oral Health Topics A-Z, Smoking (Tobacco) Cessation. (printed 03/07/07).
4. Kadunce DP, Burr R, Gress R, Kanner R, Lyon JL, Zone JJ. Cigarette smoking: risk factor for premature facial wrinkling. Annals of Internal Medicine 1991;114:840-844.
5. Brennan DS, Spencer AJ, Slade GD. Prevalence of periodontal conditions among public-funded dental patients in Australia. Aust Dent J. 2001;46(2):114-121.
6. Dental Practice Education Research Unit, The University of Adelaide. Smoking and oral health, Special Topic No 1, (printed 25/07/07).
7. Australian Dental Association. Frequently Asked Questions – Smoking. (printed 25/07/07). (This link was valid at the time of submission).
8. AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) & AACR (Australasian Association of Cancer Registries) 2007. Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2006. Cancer Series no.37. Cat. No. CAN 32. Canberra: AIHW.
9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004.
10. Smoking Cessation Guidelines for Australian General Practice. 2004 Edition.
11. Krall EA, Dawson-Hughes B, Garvey AJ and Garcia RI. Smoking, smoking cessation and tooth loss. Journal of Dental Research, Vol 76, 1653-1659. (printed 25/07/07).

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