Smoking tobacco can lead to severe health problems, such as cancer, lung disease and heart disease. But did you ever consider the effects smoking has on your mouth? Every puff of smoke that gets into your body starts by passing your lips, tongue, teeth and gums.

Oral Cancer

Smoking or chewing tobacco can contribute to cancers of your mouth, tongue, lips, gums and throat. Unfortunately, in many cases oral cancer isn’t discovered until it’s advanced. Smoking abuses your gums two different ways. First, you are likely to produce more bacterial plaque in your mouth, which puts your gums under steady attack. Second, smokers have lower levels of oxygen in their blood, which slows healing. As a result, when your gums become infected, your body is less able to deal with it.

Gum Disease gum_disease2

Considering the increased plaque and gum problems caused by smoking, it’s a no-brainer that you’re also at higher risk for tooth decay. If you smoke, you’re putting your mouth at risk for three times as many cavities as those who don’t.

Bad Breath

It’s no surprise that smokers have bad breath-and it’s not the kind you can zap with a quick breath mint. More than 4,000 chemicals pass through your oral cavity every time you smoke and many of them end up collecting on the surfaces inside your mouth. Smoking also contributes to bad breath by drying out your mouth, which can trigger gum infection and even irritate your sinuses, resulting in post-nasal drip.

Discolored Teeth

A smoker’s mouth is not a pretty mouth, thanks to the unattractive yellow stains that tar and nicotine leave on your teeth. Over time, this discoloration can seep into tiny cracks in the tooth enamel. That means that after several years of smoking, the staining may well be permanent.

Smoking Can Mess With Your Taste Buds

When you smoke regularly, your senses of taste and smell may be a bit “off.” Not only does that interfere with your enjoyment of food, it may actually lead you to add too much salt or sugar when you’re eating, in an attempt to make the taste stronger. Research shows about one in five smokers have a less precise sense of taste and smell. Fortunately, the effect may be reversible if you kick the habit.