How smoking can affect your mouth

If you took part in the recent Stoptober challenge to give up smoking for 28 days during the month of October, one of the things you may have already noticed is how much better your food tastes.

According to health charity the Oral Health Foundation, many smokers still don’t fully realise the damage smoking causes to their mouths. Here the charity describes seven problems you may not know smoking causes:

1. Yellow teeth The nicotine and tar in tobacco can make your teeth yellow in a very short time. Heavy smokers often complain that their teeth are almost brown after prolonged years of smoking. But this is just the very start of your worries.

2. Gum disease and tooth loss Smoking affects how your teeth connect to your gums and bone in your jaw, meaning smokers are more likely to suffer from gum disease. It severely affects the tissue in the gums, which make them far more vulnerable to infection. It can also lead to bone loss in the jaw and disintegrates the bone that holds your teeth in place. When weakened this leads to a hugely increased chance of tooth loss.

3. Bacterial growth Smoking results in an increased build-up of bacteria – or plaque – on the teeth, which can lead to decay and cavities. Plaque caused by smoking can also affect tissues supporting the roots of the teeth beneath the gum and weakens the bone supporting the tooth.

4. Scaly teeth When plaque stays on the teeth for a long time due to not cleaning your teeth properly it hardens into a scaly-like substance called tartar. Smokers are more likely to suffer from tartar, which often leads to receding gums and gum disease.

5. Mouth cancer There are thousands of chemicals contained in every single cigarette – we all know smoking causes cancer, but have you ever thought about how when smoking they all enter the body through the mouth? Smoking transforms saliva into a deadly cocktail that damages cells in the mouth and can turn them cancerous. Smoking causes roughly two in every three mouth cancer cases.

6. Smelly breath ‘Smokers breath’ is often one of the first problems you develop when smoking. Cigarettes leave smoke particles lingering in the mouth, throat and lungs long after you have finished your cigarette.

7. Spotty mouth Smoking often causes a white or grey patch to develop on the tongue, cheek, or the floor of the mouth, known as leukoplakia. This happens due to the constant irritation of the soft tissues inside the mouth due to smoking.

If you haven’t managed to give up yet, the charity advises that you follow the three basic rules of good oral health:

  • Brush your teeth last thing at night and at one other time of the day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Cut down on sugary foods and drinks
  • Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend

If you need help with your oral health or have questions about the role smoking plays on the health of your mouth, call the charity’s Dental Helpline on 01788 539780.

Meanwhile, your local Careway pharmacy can provide you with all the oral health products you need to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy. Many also offer smoking cessation services if you need help with giving up smoking.
Find your nearest participating Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.