It's not in the Surgeon General's warning on cigarette packs, but maybe it should be. Studies show that smoking and other kinds of tobacco use can ruin your teeth and cause mouth cancer.
The American Dental Association (ADA) lists some of the effects of smoking can have on your oral health:
In fact, the ADA says smoking could be behind as much as 75 percent of adult cases of periodontal (gum) disease.
Teeth are held in our jaws by a combination of bone and soft tissue. Tobacco products weaken gum tissue. This causes them to shrink or recede. When gums recede, tooth roots are left uncovered. So they're exposed to bacteria in our mouths, and all the things we eat, drink, or smoke. This leads to more risk of sensitivity to hot and cold and tooth decay in these unprotected areas.
The ADA isn't the only group who thinks smoking leads to tooth loss. The American Academy of Periodontology says recent studies show that tobacco use may be one of the top risk reasons for periodontal (gum) disease. And even when you get treatment for gum disease, tobacco chemicals can slow down the healing process. Smokers' results after oral surgery aren't very good, either.
How does smoking raise your risk for periodontal disease? For starters, smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to have the following problems:
Research shows that smokers lose more teeth than nonsmokers. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 20 percent of people older than 65 who have never smoked are toothless, but 41.3 percent of daily smokers older than 65 have lost all their teeth.
Like the other studies, the CDC study says people who smoke don't heal as well after periodontal treatment. But the CDC also says if you kick the habit before treatment, you can recover as well as a nonsmoker would.
Pipes, cigars and "smokeless" tobacco do damage, too.
The American Academy of Periodontology and the American Dental Association both say that pipes and cigars do just as much harm to teeth, gums, and jawbones. And chewing tobacco? It's just as bad. The Mayo Clinic will tell you why. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chewing-tobacco/CA00019
Today, there are many resources to help smokers get free of tobacco. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers all kinds of help at its http://smokefree.gov website.
Other places to find help are the American Lung Association and the United States Surgeon General's Office. The American Lung Association hosts regular workshops, classes, and support groups through its local offices. Visit its website to find listings of groups in your area.
Quitting smoking can be a tough process. A healthy smile, a healthier body, a younger look, and more time enjoying the good things in life: isn't that worth some extra effort?
Last Updated February 2014
This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor.