Person holding a box of cigarettes on orange background


Smokers Teeth: The Effects on Oral Health

Written By : Generations of Smiles Writers

Reviewed By : Charles Rodgers, DDS

Published: Aug 17, 2022

In This Article

While most people are aware of the destructive effects that smoking can have on a person’s health, particularly their lungs and heart, smoking can also have a negative impact on oral health as well. Not only can teeth suffer in appearance from a long-term habit of smoking, but it can also lead to the development of gum disease and oral cancers

In the last 58 years since the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health in 1964, a myriad of smoking-related illnesses have been added to the list of the negative effects smoking has on Americans. Since 2014, 20 million deaths have been recorded from smoking-caused illnesses. With oral health so closely intertwined with overall health, it is no wonder that the large toll smoking has on the body would also greatly affect the mouth in the form of gum disease, tooth color, and oral cancers. Even a smoker's tongue can be affected, causing a reduction in taste

What Does Smoking Do to Your Teeth?

The outer layer of a tooth is made of a hard, translucent material called enamel. Depending on oral hygiene and types of tooth staining food and drink that are regularly consumed, the enamel can begin to yellow, causing the teeth to have an overall poor health appearance. When it comes to smoking, not only can this habit produce deep, stubborn stains on the teeth, but the negative effects are not secluded to appearances alone. Two chemicals contained in cigarettes that cause tooth staining are tar and nicotine. Soon after you start smoking, you are likely to notice a yellowing of the teeth. As the habit is continued, a smoker's teeth can even begin to darken until they are brown in color. 

How does smoking hurt or ruin your teeth?

Smoking can hurt your teeth by reducing the ability of your gums to heal, which will continue further gum recession, allowing your smoking habit to cause gum disease and tooth decay, and it can ultimately lead to tooth loss if not corrected. If teeth are lost due to gum disease, smokers have a lower chance of a dental implant being successfully placed in their mouths. 

Can Smoking Cause Gum Disease?

While smoking has many recorded effects that negatively impact one’s health, gum disease should be high on the list of concerns. Even in non-smokers, gum disease can lead to a whole host of other life-threatening health conditions. Gum disease occurs when bacteria are allowed to sit in the filmy plaque that sticks to unbrushed teeth. The bacteria cause the gums to become red and inflamed and will eventually begin to pull away from the teeth if left untreated. According to the Surgeon General’s report, smokers have more health complications when compared to non-smokers. Smokers also have a reduction of natural abilities to fight off infections which may explain the increased likelihood of developing gum disease in the first place. 

How Does Smoking Contribute to Tooth Loss?

If the development of gingivitis, a precursor to a more severe type of gum disease, is not addressed, periodontal disease will form, leading to damaged, swollen gums. When the gums pull away from the teeth, the exposed roots are much more likely to sustain damage from brushing or chewing. If a dentist is not contacted, the gaps between teeth will increase, and the teeth will start to loosen. Periodontal disease is a serious condition that can lead to tooth loss as well as the loss of bone in the places where the tooth roots are normally firmly fitted. People with long-term smoking habits have an increased chance of developing gum disease and have a decrease in blood flow, making it harder for wounds to be repaired naturally. Because of the disadvantages that smoking brings to your health, gum disease can have a bigger and swifter impact on your oral health, contributing to the loss of teeth. 

Does smoking cause tooth decay?

With your body's immune defenses diminished, your mouth can not fight off infections or work to heal itself from damage done by harmful bacteria. Because of this, smoking can cause toothaches and decay if not addressed by a dentist.  

How to Remove Smoking Stains from Teeth?

Fortunately, there are many options when it comes to whitening teeth for people with deeply stained teeth, even stains caused by smoking. Home remedies like scrubbing your teeth gently with baking sodas can help loosen up stains on your pearly whites. Over-the-counter whitening strips are available at most stores and are incredibly affordable. But if the stains acquired from smoking do not seem to budge with these inexpensive options, you can have your teeth professionally brightened by your dentist. 

But if your oral health is suffering, asking your dentist before trying any form of teeth whitening solution is a great way to make sure your teeth do not sustain more damage. Because of a decreased ability for your gums to bounce back due to smoking effects on your teeth and gums, you will want to be sure any procedure you have done on your teeth will benefit your mouth overall. Addressing health complications from smoking, including gum disease, should take place first before attempting to improve the color of your teeth. 

How to Combat Bad Breath from Smoking?

Because smoking lowers your overall health and ability to fight off infections, periodontal disease can easily set in which can contribute to what is commonly referred to as smoker’s breath. Smoking can not only increase the plaque buildup on teeth that harbors harmful and pungent bacteria, but it also can disrupt and inflame the salivary glands that produce saliva and work as a natural cleanser for your mouth. You can take action against bad breath due to smoking by strictly following recommended oral hygiene practices such as brushing twice a day and flossing at least once daily. If you are suffering from dry mouth due to salivary gland inflammation, adding an antibacterial mouthwash specifically for dry mouth may help to improve the smell of your breath. 

Illustration man holding box of cigarettes

Do Pipe and Cigar Smoking Cause Dental Problems?

In regards to overall health and mortality, pipe and cigar smoking are no less harmful than cigarette smoking. In a study that specifically looked at pipe smoking compared to cigarettes, the results found virtually no difference in causes of death or illness between the two different tobacco uses. 

When it comes to oral health, pipe and cigar smoking can also lead to gum disease, tooth loss, stained teeth, and bad breath in similar ways to cigarettes. Dental problems demonstrate no winners when it comes to the different ways of using tobacco. 

Are Smokeless Tobacco Products Safer?

Many people believe the smoke in cigarettes is what is at the root of health complications for tobacco users. In truth, nicotine, tar, and chemicals in all tobacco products contribute to adverse health conditions. Products like chewing tobacco and snuff have high amounts of nicotine, causing them to be very addictive while also containing a myriad of chemicals that can lead to oral cancers. Holding these smokeless tobacco products in the mouth can irritate the gums, causing gum recession, periodontal disease, and tooth loss. If you are seeking to protect your teeth from the harmful effects of smoking, instead of using other tobacco products, the healthiest solution would be to quit tobacco altogether. 

Can Your Teeth Recover from Smoking?

While smoking has an extremely negative effect on your teeth’s health and appearance, you can attempt to counteract these results by keeping regular dental appointments to make sure the plaque is removed and any signs of gum disease are treated promptly. Maintaining oral health hygiene can greatly improve the state of your teeth if done so diligently. But to allow your teeth to truly recover, giving up smoking and other tobacco products is the single best way to improve your health.

If I quit smoking, will my teeth get better?

After you quit smoking, your teeth will not automatically get whiter. Just like a stained carpet does not magically become like new after the dark soda or red wine stops pouring into the fibers. But the teeth will be able to be cleaned and can be professionally whitened by your dentist, removing the deep stains while your overall health is improved by the removal of smoking from your daily routine. 

Do gums heal after quitting smoking?

To give your teeth the best shot at recovering from the harmful results of smoking, giving up the habit will allow your mouth to heal, and your oral hygiene efforts will go further. In a study that watched the effects quitting smoking had on the progression of gum disease, the results determined that there was a reduction in the risk of developing periodontal disease and gum disease already in progress. Non-surgical gum disease therapies showed improvement in these patients. 

Find a Dentist

Do not ignore the overwhelming evidence that smoking is bad for your overall health as well as your oral health. Find a dentist near you to get the care you need to get your mouth back on track after years of smoking. 


Find your trusted, local dentist today!



Alkhatib, Mhd N , Ruth D Holt, Raman Bedi, "Smoking and Tooth Discolouration: Findings from a National Cross-Sectional Study." NIH, 24 March 2005,

"Health Consequences of Smoking, Surgeon General Fact Sheet." HHS, 16 Jan. 2014,  

Leite, Fabio R. M., Gustavo G. Nascimento, Stina Baake, Lisa D. Pedersen, Flemming Scheutz, Rodrigo Lopez, "Impact of Smoking Cessation on Periodontitis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Prospective Longitudinal Observational and Interventional Studies." NIH, 19 Nov. 2019, 

"Smoking and Tobacco." Mouth Healthy, 24 June 2022,

Tverdal, Aage, Kjell Bjartveit, "Health consequences of pipe versus cigarette smoking." NIH, 15 Oct. 2010,

"2004 Surgeon General's Report Highlights: Smoking Among Adults in the United States." CDC, 15 July 2015,

"Whitening: 5 Things to Know About Getting a Brighter Smile." Mouth Healthy, 24 June 2022

Smile Generation blog articles are reviewed by a licensed dental professional before publishing. However, we present this information for educational purposes only with the intent to promote readers’ understanding of oral health and oral healthcare treatment options and technology. We do not intend for our blog content to substitute for professional dental care and clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment planning provided by a licensed dental professional. Smile Generation always recommends seeking the advice of a dentist, physician, or other licensed healthcare professional for a dental or medical condition or treatment. 

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