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The effects of smoking on your oral health

Smoking can have detrimental effects on the health of your gums, teeth, mouth and throat. Not to mention your overall health!

Smoking may contribution to serious conditions such as:

  • Gum disease that can lead to infections or tooth loss.

  • Increased risk of tooth decay.

  • Leukoplakia (white patches in the mouth that may be pre-cancerous).

  • Changes in mouth and throat tissues that can lead to oral cancer.

In addition to these, lesser effects of smoking include staining and discoloration of the teeth, hairy tongue and bad breath.


Gum disease has a higher frequency rate in smokers than non-smokers. The two most common gum diseases are gingivitis and periodontitis.

  1. Gingitivitis is the inflammation of gum tissue that usually results in bleeding of the gums when you brush your teeth or even spontaneously

  2. Periodontitis is a more serious infection of the gums and can cause pockets of infection around the roots of the teeth, with loss of bone, loss of one or more teeth and tooth movement.

Some of the signs of gum disease include:

  • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth – however, smoking causes constriction of your blood vessels which might mask the signs of bleeding!

  • Red, swollen or sore gums.

  • Receding gums where the the gums have pulled away from the teeth

  • Bad breath.

  • Pus between the teeth and gums.

  • Loose teeth, or teeth that have started changing positions.

  • Changes in the way that the upper and lower teeth fit together.


Leukoplakia is a white patch on the mucosa inside the mouth that cannot be removed. It is found more frequently in smokers and may develop into cancer.


The risk of getting oral cancer is greater among tobacco users, especially for those who also drink alcohol. It is important to come in for 6-monthly checkups to have early detection by your dentist.

In Australia, 57% of oral cancers in men and 51% in women are caused by smoking- AIHW

Although many early signs of oral cancer are painless, some of the symptoms may include:

  • Sores in the mouth that bleed easily or will not heal.

  • White or red patches in the mouth that fail to go away.

  • Lumps in the mouth, throat or tongue.

  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing food.


If you are considering or wanting to quit smoking there are many support services available to help you along the way. Quitting smoking can profoundly improve your overall and oral health. Here are some services you can check out:

  • Quitline on 137 848, or

  • Quitcoach on

You may also want to consider contacting your local GP or doctor for more help or information.

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