Tobacco

What effects can smoking have on my oral health?

Use of any tobacco product can increase your risk of developing oral cancer and gum disease (periodontal disease).

Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. An example of the effect is receding gums. A receding gum line exposes the tooth roots and increases your risk of developing a sensitivity to hot and cold, or tooth decay in these unprotected areas.

Smoking can delay healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery.

Smoking also can contribute to bad breath, stains on your teeth and tongue, and a build-up of tartar on your teeth.

Are cigars a safe alternative to cigarettes?

Cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Even if you do not inhale cigar smoke, you are still at risk for oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers.

Like cigarette smokers, cigar smokers are at increased risk for periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss.

In addition to the health risks, cigar smoke (and cigarette smoke) can cause staining of the teeth and tongue as well as bad breath.

Are smokeless tobacco products safe?

Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. At least 28 cancer-causing chemicals have been identified in smokeless tobacco products.

Smokeless tobacco can irritate your gum tissue, causing it to recede or pull away from your teeth. Once this gum tissue recedes, the roots of your teeth are exposed, increasing your risk for tooth decay. The roots of your teeth also may become sensitive to hot and cold or other irritants, which means you could experience some discomfort when eating or drinking.

Sugars, often added to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco, can increase your risk for tooth decay. Smokeless tobacco also typically contains sand and grit, which can wear down your teeth.

What are some signs of oral cancer?

Signs and symptoms that could indicate oral cancer include:

  • any sign of irritation, like tenderness, burning or a sore that will not heal;
  • pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips;
  • development of a lump, or a leathery, wrinkled or bumpy patch inside your mouth;
    color changes to your oral soft tissues (gray, red or white spots or patches), rather than a healthy pink color;
  • difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue;
  • any change in the way your teeth fit together.

See your dentist or physician if you notice any of these changes.