Smoking tobacco can cause serious health problems and can also affect the appearance and health of your mouth and gums.

Side Effects

Tobacco products damage your gum tissue and exposes the tooth roots. Other side effects include:

  • Nicotine addiction
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Bad breath; stained teeth and recession of the gum line
  • Accumulation of tartar (calculus) and plaque
  • Increased sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Delayed healing after dental work
  • Increased heart rate
  • Possible breathing difficulties and/or a "smoker's cough"

Risk Factors

No matter how long you have smoked, quitting can quickly decrease your risk of developing:

  • Oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers
  • Cancers of the lungs and/or other parts of the body
  • Heart disease and/or stroke
  • Chronic bronchitis, emphysema
  • Periodontitis and tooth decay
  • Premature aging
  • Mouth sores or lesions that do not heal (leukoplakia)

Oral Cancer

How To Quit

  • Talk to your dentist and your doctor about developing a strategy to quit.
  • Have your dentist screen you for early signs of oral cancer and periodontal disease.
  • Anticipate triggers to smoking and prepare strategies on how to avoid them.
  • Reward yourself for reaching small goals go out for dinner or buy yourself a gift.
  • Chew sugarless gum and drink water when cravings hit.
  • Incorporate exercise into your weekly routine and eat more fruits and vegetables.

Photos provided by Dr. Arden Christen, Indiana University School of Dentistry, Department of Oral Biology.