We all know that smoking is bad for our overall health, but it can also be a major contributor to oral health problems. Whether you are smoking traditional cigarettes, cigars, vapes, or hookah water pipes, your risk of dental complications increases. But what about tooth pain? Does smoking make tooth pain worse?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is maybe. It depends on the affected tooth and whether or not the nerves are exposed. At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we recommend all our patients avoid smoking in general, especially when they are battling oral health challenges.

How does smoking affect tooth pain?

Whether or not smoking affects your tooth pain depends on the underlying cause of your toothache. If your tooth pain stems from a cavity without nerve-ending exposure, smoking is unlikely to affect your pain levels. However, if the nerve endings are exposed, smoking constricts the blood flow to the nerves, often increasing the pain. If your pain is caused by severe gum disease, smoking is likely to worsen the pain. Smoking affects your gum’s ability to try and heal, worsening your gum disease and increasing your pain levels.

Dental problems from smoking

Not only can smoking make existing dental pain worse, but it can also be the root cause of your dental pain. As we mentioned, smoking is not only bad for your overall health, but it can also play a major role in poor oral health.

Gum disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, occurs when bacteria and food debris cause the formation of dental plaque. This plaque, if left to form, hardens into tartar that pushes into and irritates the gums. If left untreated, it can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth and damage the tooth root, leading to tooth loss. When you smoke, the tobacco affects the blood supply in the gums, reducing their ability to heal. In addition, this reduced blood supply also minimizes a key symptom of gum disease. Bleeding gums is the main indicator of gum disease and, when smoking reduces the blood flow, this main symptom is often missed in the early stages.

Tooth decay and tooth loss

Because smoking affects the blood flow in the gums and the risk of gum disease is higher, so is the risk of tartar buildup and tooth decay. If left untreated, this decay eats away at the teeth, increasing the risk of cavities and tooth loss.

Dry socket

A dry socket is a very painful condition that can happen after tooth extraction. After an extraction, a blood clot forms in the space to protect the bone and nerves in your gums from being exposed during healing. If this clot becomes dislodged, the bone and nerves are exposed, creating a very painful condition. The sucking action of smoking can dislodge the blood clot and cause a dry socket. In fact, studies show that dry socket occurs significantly more often in smokers than in nonsmokers.

Reduced healing

Tobacco affects the body’s ability to heal by reducing blood flow and affecting the immune system. You may experience increased healing times after oral procedures, such as tooth extraction or gum surgery. In addition, as a smoker, you may experience reduced success with dental implants as the body is unable to heal and support the implants as it should.

Mouth cancer

Smoking is the main risk factor for the development of mouth cancer. Mouth cancer can affect your tongue, cheek, roof of your mouth, and lips. Common symptoms of mouth cancer can include white or red patches in the mouth, persistent mouth ulcers, or swelling.

Man smiling while pointing his teeth.

Relieving tooth pain

When you experience tooth pain, it is important to contact your dentist and seek treatment as soon as possible. In the meantime, stop or reduce your smoking until the cause of your tooth pain can be addressed. In addition, these remedies may help reduce your tooth pain until your dentist can address its cause.

 

    • Cold compress or ice pack
    • Saltwater mouth rinse
    • Over-the-counter pain medications
    • Hydrogen peroxide rinse

How to prevent teeth problems in smokers

If you are a smoker, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk for tooth pain and dental concerns. These can include:

 

  • Quitting: The best way to reduce your risk of dental concerns is to quit smoking. Talk with your doctor about ways to help.
  • Follow a good oral hygiene routine: Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day in order to help reduce the risk of plaque buildup.
  • Regular dental exams: Attend routine dental exams every six to 12 months. This allows your dentist to catch any potential dental concerns early.

Preserve your smile with a regular dental hygiene routine and quality dental care

Smoking can have a major impact on your teeth and oral health, including an increase in dental pain. If you are unable to quit at this time, even reducing the amount you smoke can have an impact. As a smoker, good oral healthcare is essential, including following a good oral hygiene routine and visiting your dentist regularly.

At New Leaf Rohnert Park, our team of dental professionals will work with you to help ensure your oral health is maintained and any health concerns are addressed quickly. If you are experiencing tooth pain or would like to come in for an oral exam, request an appointment today.