Smoking cigarettes and cigars is indeed very damaging to your respiratory and cardiovascular health.
It’s by far the leading cause of lung cancer and other lung diseases due to the constant inhalation of carcinogens into your lung tissue. It’s also implicated in quite a large number of heart disease cases, as the nicotine in tobacco damages your cardiovascular system over time.
However, to be fair it would be misleading to say that smoking is bad for your teeth. Smoking does not contribute to tooth decay (such as the formation of cavities) in any clinically significant way.
It will stain your teeth yellow or brown, though, and you can often tell long-time smokers by an unsightly dark stain between their incisors. This staining is similar to the one caused by coffee and tea, and can be dealt with by regular brushing with a whitening toothpaste or visiting a dentist for a comprehensive tooth cleaning. So the correct answer to the question is that smoking causes no permanent damage to your teeth except for minor cosmetic damage.
On the other hand, when most people say that smoking is bad for your teeth they are referring to gum disease that can occur as a result of smoking cigarettes. It is entirely fair to say that smoking is bad for your mouth in general.
Smoking (especially regular cigar smoking, since the tobacco has more time in contact with the gums) is a major contributor to gum disease. This includes oral cancer, which is often fatal if not detected early enough. Even if oral cancer is detected early, treatment often involves removing a large part of the mouth and gums which can be permanently disfiguring.
Smoking after dental operations such as root canals or removal of the wisdom teeth can greatly slow down the healing process; in some cases, the suction action resulting from smoking a cigarette can cause dry socket, in which the blood clot that normally forms after a tooth extraction is pulled away from the tooth. The exposed bone is then infected by food and saliva, resulting in incredible pain.
Smoking in general will also cause bad breath, which is also referred to by the term “halitosis.” Not only does your mouth smell like stale tobacco smoke from constantly smoking cigarettes, but smoking also dries out the inside of your mouth.
This produces favorable conditions for the bacteria which cause bad breath. In such a dry environment with little saliva to protect your tongue and gums, the bacteria can reproduce freely and cause halitosis.
Darcy Fonner works for richardfossumdds and is an expert on Dentrix software. When she is not working she enjoys discovering new restaurants and traveling.