Skip to main content

Smoking and gum disease

Smoking can lead to heart and lung disease, including many types of cancer. You can add gum disease to the growing list of conditions caused by tobacco.

The link between smoking and gum disease

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a condition that destroys the bone that supports your teeth. People who smoke more than one and a half packs of cigarettes a day were nearly five times more likely to have advanced periodontitis, according to one study.

Gum disease can occur in non-smokers as well, especially if they don’t regularly brush or floss their teeth. But researchers say smokers are more at risk because tobacco can suppress the body’s immune system, reducing its ability to fight infection. Smoking also limits the growth of blood vessels, slowing the healing of damaged gum tissue.

If periodontitis is not treated, the bone surrounding teeth can deteriorate, causing the teeth to become loose and fall out.

Other oral conditions caused by smoking

Gum disease is only part of the problem. Smokers are more likely to develop conditions such as:

  • Complications after tooth and gum procedures
  • Impaired healing
  • Oral cancer
  • Receding gums
  • Stained teeth
  • Tooth decay

Watch for signs of gum disease

If you smoke, see your dentist regularly to check for signs of gum damage. Symptoms may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Discharge coming from your gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums
  • Spaces that appear between your teeth

The good news is that quitting smoking will greatly reduce your risk of gum disease. Ex-smokers who have abstained for more than 10 years face no increased risk.

Last updated June 24, 2022

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.