Dental care - smoking and your mouth

Tobacco smoking remains the single most preventable cause of illness and death in Australia. Smoking affects the whole body including the mouth. Smoking causes bad breath, stained teeth, reduced taste and changes to the gums.Quitting smoking reduces the risk of oral cancer and gum disease.

Stained teeth

  • smoking stains teeth, white fillings and dentures
  • use a soft toothbrush and a pea sized amount of adult fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth
  • if you wear dentures use mild soap and water
  • smokers’ toothpaste and whitening products contain more abrasive particles than regular toothpaste and should be used with care - they may wear tooth protecting enamel
  • your dental professional will advise you how to care for your oral health
  • the good news - being smoke free combined with proper tooth brushing at home and cleaning by your dental professional reduces visible stains

Smoker’s breath

Tobacco use is one of the causes of bad breath. Smokers have an increased risk of calculus (tartar) build up which can make bad breath worse. 

Constant use of mints to freshen breath may lead to problems with tooth decay. If you use mints, make sure they are sugar free.

The good news! Stopping smoking and gently brushing teeth will help the breath. A dental check will ensure there are no dental problems causing bad breath.

Decreased taste

Smoking by-products stick to the surfaces in your mouth making it hard for taste buds to work. Your sense of smell may also be affected.

The good news!Taste sensation starts to improve 48 hours after your last cigarette. 

Gum disease

Healthy gums are pink and firm. Healthy gums need good circulation to carry oxygen and nutrients in and to take waste products away. Good circulation is also a defence against infection. 

Smoking affects the blood and oxygen supply to gums. Smoker’s gums may appear thickened and vary in colour from very pale to purple in severe cases. Gum disease affects gums, bone and the tissues supporting teeth.

Smokers are up to 6 times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers.

Long term gum disease can result in tooth loss. Smokers lose more teeth than non-smokers. 

The good news! By stopping smoking and with dental care, the progress of gum disease can be stopped and further damage prevented.

Oral cancer

Smoking is a major cause of oral cancers. The risk of oral cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked, the length of time people have smoked and if they are heavy drinkers.

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer vary. They may be white or red patches in the mouth that don’t go away, sores that don’t heal, changes in the way teeth fit together or lumps and swellings. Diagnosed in the early stages, oral cancers may often be successfully treated. Oral cancers can be detected during dental check ups.

The good news! Quitting smoking reduces the risk of oral cancer.

Problems after dental treatment

Smoking often causes complications after tooth extraction, failure of dental implants and slows healing after gum disease treatment.

The good news! Quitting smoking reduces the likelihood of problems after dental treatment. 

Smoking and pregnancy

Smoking affects your whole body as well as your  mouth – your baby’s health will suffer too.

Give your teeth, gums and mouth a healthy chance …… think about quitting smoking.

Call the Quitline 13 78 48 

The Quitline offers information, support and advice on how to quit smoking. If you’re on your mobile, ask Quit to call you back or visit the Quitline website.