How smoking affects your oral health

19 October 2022

Smoking has many negative effects on your oral health, and your health in general. This also applies to vaping, as although it is frequently considered a method of quitting smoking it also contains an array of harmful substances in terms of your oral health. If you do smoke, these are likely conditions that you have heard of before or you may feel that it is too late to make any changes, but that is not the case! In this article we are going to look at the effects of how smoking affects your oral health, but more critically why you should consider quitting smoking and how you can seek help to quit.

The oral health conditions that smoking can cause include but are not limited to:

  • A higher risk of mouth or throat cancer
  • A higher risk of gum disease
  • Losing your teeth
  • The root of your teeth decaying
  • Gum problems
  • Whitening of the soft tissue in your mouth (Smokers Keratosis)
  • Poor healing after tooth removal or dental implants
  • Decreased sense of taste
  • Bad breath (Halitosis)

Many of the effects above are self-explanatory in that you would be able to notice the signs such as tooth loss, teeth becoming looser, pain or swelling in your gums, the development of smokers keratosis, poor healing and a decreased sense of taste or bad breath. Losing teeth at the front in particular can result in changes to how you eat, speak or even your appearance. However, the symptoms are not always so obvious for the two most dangerous consequences of smoking and your oral health. These are Mouth cancer and gum disease.

Mouth or throat cancer

Cells in the mouth or lips mutate which causes cells to become cancerous. The harmful substances in Tobacco can cause a greater likelihood of cell mutation. In a study conducted by Cancer Research UK, it was determined that 1 in 55 males, and 1 in 108 females will be diagnosed with oral cancer in their lifetime, with 46% of oral cavity cancer cases being preventable. Whilst quitting smoking is the most effective method of prevention, there are also some signs to look out for which include:

  • A red or white patch in your mouth
  • A new persistent ulcer that does not subside after 7-10 days, particularly if it causes no pain
  • Swelling in the mouth, or dental implants become unable to fit comfortably

Gum disease

Tar found in Tobacco can cling to the teeth and gums, eroding your enamel and the strength of the root of your teeth in their position in your gums. We have covered other articles on the signs of Gum disease, however the symptoms of this can be different for smokers and the reasons why too. For instance, smokers are less likely to experience bleeding gums as a symptom as smoking constricts the amount of blood vessels able to travel to the gums. The risk of gum disease is higher for smokers who smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day, but this rises even further, by 4 to 5 times, for heavy smokers. Some signs include:

  • Gaps opening in your teeth
  • Teeth feeling loose as your gums dislodge from them
  • Pus or discharge coming from your mouth
  • Red, tender, bleeding or swollen gums
  • Increased spacing between teeth
  • Bad breath


Often seen as a method of quitting smoking, Vaping also has the potential to cause longer term damage to your oral health. Although vaping offers the choice of whether or not to include nicotine in the e-liquids, these liquids still contain harmful substances which can lead to mouth cancer. Some substances that are also found present in e-liquids include heavy metals, cancer causing chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Due to their recent emergence, there are presently not enough studies or evidence to conclude the effect of vaping on other areas of your oral health. However, there has been speculation and a small amount of evidence demonstrating that vaping can also lead to gum disease, inflammation, loss of taste (vape tongue) that we are currently aware of.

How to seek help quitting smoking

There are several resources and organisations to help you stop smoking, but we strongly recommend any of the below methods.

Finding your local stop smoking service through the NHS

Research Nicotine replacement products

Request a prescription from your doctor

Find Nicotine replacement and reduction products from your local pharmacy

Monitor your progress! Smokers who can quit for 28 days are 5 times more likely to quit for good!