Tobacco and Your Teeth: More than Stains to Worry About

Women who smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes are up to seven times more likely to lose their teeth than women who do not smoke, a recent study indicates.

Toxins in tobacco can lead to gum deterioration, which can lead to tooth loss.  Postmenopausal female smokers, for whom lower estrogen levels also play a factor in gum health, are at particular risk, according to the study published in March in the Journal of the American Dental  Association.

More than 1,100 women past the age of menopause participated in the University of Buffalo study led by Xiaodan Mai.   Cavities and gum loss are the two biggest contributors to tooth loss.  The study did not find that smokers developed more cavities but did suffer greater gum damage than non-smoking females.   Tooth loss was greatest among women who smoked the longest and who smoked the most cigarettes.

This means that younger women who give up smoking or who switch to an alternative to traditional cigarettes may protect themselves from losing their teeth later in life.  Electronic cigarettes are an alternative to tobacco cigarettes.    Although classified as a tobacco product, they do not contain tobacco or emit smoke.  Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, water, propylene glycol and flavoring.  The mixture is heated and forms a mist, which a user inhales.

Prevention and Additional Risk Factors


Tobacco Stains

Tobacco Stains

Smoking is not the only cause of periodontal disease.   If you smoke and want to reduce your risk of tooth loss, practice good oral hygiene.  This includes brushing and flossing your teeth daily and getting regular dental checkups.

Improving your diet can also help protect you against gum disease and tooth loss, according to

Some risk factors for gum disease, including heredity and age, are beyond your control.  Diseases such as diabetes, leukemia and HIV are also associated with a higher risk for periodontal disease.  Some medications and some forms of substance abuse also are associated with gum disease.

Replacing Lost Teeth

If you lose a tooth,  you don't have to resort to dentures or a bridge.  The tooth can be replaced with a dental implant.  The procedure includes surgery to drill a hole into the gum bone and the insertion of a metal root and building of a new tooth.  The process takes two to six months.  Your dentist may advise you against smoking during this period, as smoking can lengthen healing time or cause an infection, says Dr. Priya Patel.  Smoking may also cause the implant to fail, Dr. Patel wrote in a March 17 issue of The Washington Times.

Tobacco vs. Coffee Stains

There is some good news for smokers:  Tobacco stains are easier to treat than coffee stains.  A study published in July 2012 in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that cigarette and coffee stains responded about equally to at-home stain removal methods such as treatments involving hydrogen peroxide.   But smokers were able to prevent new stains by brushing their teeth regularly than were coffee drinkers,  wrote Dr. Juliana Zavala Bazzi, lead author of the study.