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Teeth and tobacco

To mark World Oral Health Day (WOHD) today, we’re focusing on tobacco and how it affects oral health.

Oral health diseases are the most common diseases in the world; they affect a massive 90% of the world’s population at some stage in their lifetime[1]. But with thorough dental hygiene and care, many can be avoided.

Teeth and Tobacco

You already know that your dentist is the first line of defence when it comes to keeping your teeth and gums at their peak health. But did you know that your dentist is also trained to look for early signs of serious conditions such as mouth cancer? Early detection is important to ensure that you can get the treatment you need.

It’s widely known that smoking increases your chances of lung conditions like emphysema and cancer. But did you know it can also seriously affect your oral health? There are a range of dental problems that affect people who smoke[2].

Bad breath

Cigarettes contain chemicals such as tar. The chemicals stick to the teeth of people who smoke and build up in the mouth over time, which creates an odour.

Smoking also dries out the mouth. As saliva is the natural cleanser of the mouth and flushes out food debris and bad-breath bacteria, smokers may have more bacteria in their mouth compared with non-smokers. Bad breath can also be caused by gum disease (gingivitis), which is more prevalent in smokers[4]. One reason for this could be because smoking uses the vitamins, like delicate vitamin C, which is needed for a healthy immune system to battle infection.

Increased risk of oral cancer 

It’s no secret that smoking is the major cause of cancers in the mouth, tongue, cheeks, lips,throat, oesophagus and salivary glands, among other organs. And that the longer you smoke and the more you smoke, the greater your risk of oral cancers[5]. But did you know that more than 80 per cent of cancers of the mouth, throat and nose occur in people who smoke pipes, cigarettes or cigars[6]? These cancers are caused by at least 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of cancer[7].

Quit Smoking

Slower wound healing and increased risk of gum disease

As smoking affects the immune system and nicotine impairs the blood flow to the gums and bone (by reducing the diameter of blood vessels), smokers may have slower wound healing – including healing in the mouth. After oral surgery (such as a tooth extraction), it may take a smoker a lot longer to heal.

Smokers are also six times more likely to have serious periodontal (gum) disease[8]. Because smoking reduces the blood supply to the gums, early gum disease symptoms like bleeding gums can be masked. This is also caused by the lowered immune system, as the body can’t fight the infection and because people who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease[9]. This can lead to tooth-loss. The good news is that just one to eight weeks after quitting smoking, wound healing can improve in the mouth[10].

Complications after dental treatments

If you smoke, you’re more likely to develop a painful condition called dry socket. This can occur after a tooth is extracted. You’re also more likely to have pain after dental treatments and certain procedures such as dental implant surgery are more likely to fail.

Increased build up of plaque and tartar

Smoking causes people to have more plaque (film) and tartar (hardened plaque) on their teeth. This can lead to gingivitis and other gum diseases.

Staining on teeth

Staining on the teeth is caused by the nicotine and tar in the tobacco. It yellows the teeth after a short time and the teeth can turn a brown colour after years of smoking, which is hard to reverse.

To keep your teeth in the best shape, follow the tips below.


You should be cleaning your teeth twice a day after meals with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride is beneficial for the teeth as it helps to fight tooth decay.

Don’t forget to floss

Flossing helps to get rid of plaque, which can form between teeth and along your gum line. Flossing daily will help to prevent gum disease and tooth loss.

Chew sugar-free gum after eating

Chewing gum encourages the flow of saliva in your mouth. Saliva helps to neutralise acids in the mouth so it’s a good idea to chew some sugar-free gum after eating.

Drink tap water

Most of the tap water in Australia contains fluoride but bottled water often does not contain much fluoride. So make sure you are drinking enough tap water!

Glass and Bottle Water

See your dentist

It’s recommended that you see your dentist twice a year so that they can keep a close eye on your oral health. For a comprehensive oral examination, make an appointment to see your rt healthy teeth dentist by calling 1300 991 044.

Need help to quit smoking?

If you are looking to quit, talk to your GP, pharmacist, call the Quitline on 13 7848 (13 QUIT) anywhere in Australia or visit to find out more information. The Quitline can provide you with information and support you on your journey to quit smoking.

Jui Tham
Jui Tham is Chief Medical Officer at rt health fund.


[1] World Dental Federation. About WOHD.

[2] WebMd. Smoking and Dental Health: Yellow Teeth, Bad Breath, and Other Smoking Effects.

[4]Mayoclinic. Bad breath Causes – Diseases and Conditions.

[5] Australian Government. quitnow – Smoking Causes Mouth and Throat Cancer.

[6] Australian Government. quitnow – Smoking Causes Mouth and Throat Cancer.

908 [7]WebMd. Smoking and Dental Health: Yellow Teeth, Bad Breath, and Other Smoking Effects.

[8] Australian Dental Association. Smoking.

[9] British Dental Health Foundation. Tell me about – Sundry – Smoking and oral health.

[10] Quit Victoria. How does smoking damage my mouth, eyes and nose?

This blog was posted in oral cancer, teeth, tobacco and tagged in dentist, oral cancer, rt healthy teeth, world oral health day