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Smoking and Gum Disease

Do you have healthy gums? You may kiss them goodbye if you're a smoker, the American Dental Association (ADA) says.

Smoking -- or using any tobacco product -- damages your gums by affecting the bones and soft tissues in your mouth where they attach to your teeth, the ADA says. If you smoke, you are more likely to have receding gums. This condition exposes roots of your teeth, making your teeth more sensitive to hot and cold, and increases your risk for tooth decay. In addition, smoking makes tartar build up more quickly on your teeth.

Smoking affects the blood vessels throughout your body, raising your risk for heart disease and stroke. In your mouth, it delays healing after you have a tooth extracted or after oral surgery, the ADA says.

Using tobacco products also increases your risk for oral cancer. These are signs that may indicate oral cancer, according to the ADA:

  • A sore or tenderness in the mouth that doesn't get better

  • Pain or numbness in the mouth or on the lips

  • A lump or leathery patch inside your mouth

  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking

  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together

If you have any of these signs, talk to your health care provider or dentist.