Smoking is a major cause of cancers of the mouth and throat. Provided cancer is not already present, stopping smoking halves the risk of mouth and throat cancer within five years, and the risk continues to decline over time. People who smoke and are heavy drinkers have very high risks for mouth and throat cancer.
Smoking is a cause of periodontitis, a common dental disease. Its symptoms may include infected gums, loss of the jawbone that supports the teeth and deep spaces forming around the teeth (periodontal pockets). Stopping smoking reduces the risk of developing periodontal disease and slows down the progress of existing disease.
Smoking affects the immune system, making smokers more likely to develop bacterial infection. Also, smoking impairs healing of gum and bone. Stopping smoking improves wound healing within one to eight weeks.
Other tobacco-related conditions of the mouth include:
- Brown to blackish staining of teeth, dentures and dental restorations.
- Increased risk of leukoplakia (a lesion in the mouth which can develop into cancer).
- Increased risk of tooth decay and tooth loss.
- Bad breath (halitosis) and impaired taste.
- Smoker's melanosis (brown spots on the gums).
- Black hairy tongue (bacteria, yeast and debris collecting on the tiny bumps on the tongue).
- Smoker's palate (the roof of the mouth becomes thickened and pale or white).
- Dental implants are more likely to fail.
- Some enzyme activity in saliva is reduced by chemicals in tobacco smoke.
Stopping smoking improves these conditions or helps their treatment.