You’ve heard it from your doctor, but have you heard it from your dentist? Smoking is as dangerous for your oral health as it is for the rest of your body. The profound health effects of smoking are very well known, but what people tend to ignore is the effect smoking has on dental health. Your smile is an important part of the impression you make on others, so if you want that first impression to be a good one, you need to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

So how does smoking affect your dental health? Four ways:

  1. Tooth discolouration. The nicotine and tar found in cigarettes leave yellow-brown stains on teeth that are almost impossible to remove with normal brushing.

  2. Bad breath. These same two ingredients are also the culprits that cause bad breath, commonly known as “smoker’s breath.”

  3. Gum disease. Smoking promotes plaque and tartar build-up, which increases your chances of developing gum disease. The Journal of Periodontology reports a correlation between the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the incidence of gum disease: If you smoke more, your risk climbs. And as gum disease progresses, the risk of losing your teeth increases.

  4. Oral cancer. Because the many toxins in tobacco enter your body directly through your mouth, smoking is the “single most important and preventable risk factor” in the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. This type of cancer is particularly deadly because it tends to be discovered late, often after it has already spread. Tobacco damages the cells in the lining of the mouth; they start growing at an abnormally rapid rate to repair this damage, and that rapid growth can become cancer. It’s important to note that all forms of tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff and chewing tobacco) increase your risk of developing oral cancer.

As with many of the other perils associated with smoking, your risk of oral cancer will drop when you stop, according to Health Canada. And that’s definitely something to smile about.