Smoking and oral health

People are more aware of the harmful impact of tobacco use on general health – respiratory disorders, heart disease, lung cancer – than its adverse effects on oral health.


Yet tobacco use is the primary cause of pharyngeal and oral cancer. Smokers are up to 20 times more exposed to the risk of this type of cancer than non-smokers, and the danger increases for regular drinkers.


Tobacco is also by far the main factor in the failure of implant therapy treatment. And that’s not to mention its effects on users’ appearance (yellowed teeth, black spots on teeth), taste, smell and breath.


Health professionals have an important role to play in discouraging tobacco use, and dentists are now stepping up their efforts by informing patients who smoke about the impact of smoking on oral health. They are also advising them on ways of quitting and the free resources available.


About 50% of cases of periodontitis may be attributed to tobacco use. It also impairs the chance of successful treatment and the healing of oral wounds.

Benefits of quitting for oral health

The harmful impact of smoking on oral health can be seen much sooner than the impact of a disease affecting several organs, like heart disease.


  • After just 48 hours, an ex-smoker’s ability to taste and smell and his or her breath improves.
  • After 3 months, the oral mucosa is in better condition.
  • After 12 months, the gums are back to health.
  • After 5 to 10 years, the risk of oral cancer for an ex-smoker is comparable to that of a non-smoker.
Did you know?
  • Smokers are 2.6 to 6 times more at risk of periodontitis than non-smokers.
  • A smoker who butts out for good at age 30 will add 10 years to his or her life expectancy.
  • Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for oral cancer.
  • Every year, more than 700 people in Quebec learn that they have oral cancer. Close to 300 of them die of it – nearly one a day.

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