Oral Health and Smoking

Smoking can cause a range of issues from extremely serious or critical to less serious to both oral and overall health. By quitting smoking, you can, over time, reduce your risk levels and the sooner one quits, the greater the reduction in risk levels. Quitting before age 40 can reduce excess mortality attributable to continued smoking by 90%; quitting before age 30 reduces risk levels by more than 97%.

Tobacco contains chemicals that are harmful to the human body and the smoking or chewing of tobacco is the cause of 80–90% of oral cancers.

The effects of smoking on your mouth include:

  • Increased risk of periodontal disease.
  • Affects the sense of taste and smell.
  • Bad breath.
  • Tooth discolouration.
  • An increased build up of dental plaque, and delayed healing following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment or oral surgery.

Smoking risks include: an increase in the risk of developing several types of cancers (lung, pancreatic, cervical, kidney, liver, bladder, stomach, mouth, lip, throat, and luekaemia), emphysema and other respiratory diseases, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and ulcers.

Smoking is also associated with adverse pregnancy and other outcomes including: increased spontaneous abortions in the first trimester; premature placenta abruption;  preterm delivery; decreased birth weight;  and sudden infant death syndrome. It can also be attributed to earlier menopause in women,and sperm abnormalities and impotence in men. 

Smokers shorten their life expectancy by 10–15 years on average. By quitting smoking, however, you can, over time, reduce their risk levels.

Smoking increases the risk for mouth head and neck cancer. If you smoke and drink you are at greater risk compared to those who do not. People who both smoke and drink are up to 35 times more likely to be diagnosed with a cancer of the head and neck.  Alcohol acts as a solvent and eases the transfer of carcinogens from cigarettes through the body especially to exposed tissues in the mouth, head and neck.

If you smoke, you should visit your dentist regularly to keep your teeth and gums healthy and for a mouth cancer examination (quick and painless).

For information and support on how to quit smoking  check https://www2.hse.ie/quit-smoking/ or call the HSE Quit Team on Freefone 1800201203