Blog: Smoker? You May Need Emergency Dental Services

Some of the direct effects of smoking on oral health are obvious and may seem minor. Bad breath, tooth discoloration, and build up of plaque & tartar on the teeth are common problems for smokers that can often be controlled through regularly scheduled visits with dental professionals.

Unfortunately for smokers, even these seemingly small problems are commonly symptoms of much bigger problems. Bad breath and build ups of plaque or tartar can actually be symptoms of more serious problems like gum disease. With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention finding smoking to escalate dental issues and with over ¼ of Canadians not even visiting the dentist once a year (twice a year being recommended) smokers may be too late if they wait for their next scheduled check-up to address these issues.

In some cases, such as gum disease or leukoplakia, it can actually be fatal to avoid getting emergency dental services. Smoking is not only a root cause for many dental problems, but is also responsible for escalating them and preventing proper healing, smokers are more likely to require emergency dental services.

Here are a few dental problems frequently caused by smoking:

  • Gum Disease
  • Tooth Discoloration
  • Plaque &F Tartar Build-Up
  • Loss of Bone in Jaw
  • Periodontal Gum Disease
  • Oral Cancer
  • Leukoplakia
  • Inflamed Salivary Gland
  • Receeding Gums
  • Loose or Lost Teeth

Symptoms such as bad breath, tooth discoloration, and plaque/tartar build-up can often be managed effectively. However many of the other issues can lead to surgery, permanent, irreversible damage or even death.

In the past pipe and cigar smokers have made claims that they are less at risk than cigarette smokers. Studies performed by the Canadian government have consistently determined that, “cigar and pipe smokers experience the same types of health problems as cigarette smokers.” So regardless of how you smoke, it is a good idea to contact an emergency dental service at the first sign of any problems.

Potentially Fatal Smoking Caused/Related Dental Problems

In most cases, the risk of fatality is greatly reduced by receiving emergency dental services early on. Often, catching these dental emergencies early can prevent even needing surgery. The reduced recovery caused by smoking makes it even more important for smokers to contact an emergency dentist immediately.

Gum Disease

Many of the dental issues listed above can be symptoms of periodontal gum disease, or precursors. Many people confuse gum inflammation (gingivitis) with gum disease. Gingivitis is not as severe as gum disease and the problems are often not permanent. Smoking can have a significant effect upon gingivitis, preventing recovery and can even cause the gum inflammation to progress to gum disease.

According to WebMD, some of the symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bleeding Gums (when brushing)
  • Red, Swollen, or Tender Gums
  • Persistent Bad Breath
  • Loose Teeth/Tooth
  • Receding Gums

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. In addition to tooth loss, advanced gum disease can lead to irreversible damage to bones, tissue, or teeth. The American Academy of Periodontology has uncovered strong links between gum disease and osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and cancer.

Men with gum disease were found to be twice as likely to develop kidney cancer, more than twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and a third more likely to develop blood cancer. Gum disease has also been associated with strokes, heart disease, and diabetes.

The ability of periodontal gum disease to progress into these serious conditions makes it a potentially fatal disease, if left untreated. Getting immediate treatment is the best way to prevent or discover complications resulting from gum disease.

Smoking’s Effect on Gum Disease

Smoking reduces both your body’s ability to fight infection. So once a problem begins to develop it is harder for a smoker’s gums to heal. According to the Center for Disease Control smokers are 200% more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers, and treatment is less effective – especially if delayed. This makes it extra important for smokers to contact an emergency dentist at the first sign of gum disease.


Leukoplakia is a condition that is most common among smokers because smoking not only exacerbates other causes, but also can be the cause itself. Leukoplakia is a condition where a patch of grey or white appears on the cheek, tongue, gums or floor of the mouth.

The patches may feel raised, rough, or hardened. These are often painful or sensitive to the touch and can be easily irritated by spicy foods or hot/cold temperatures. If you are among the 12% of Canadians experiencing ongoing mouth pain every year consider visiting an emergency dental clinic near you to assess if Leukoplakia is the cause.

At the first appearance of white or grey patches in the mouth, you need to contact an emergency dental service immediately. Leukoplakia is often a symptom of cancer. Even if it appears that there may be another cause for the Leukoplakia, your emergency dentist will biopsy the lesion. As is often the case, the rate of survivability for mouth cancer is significantly higher when caught early.

If the biopsy comes back negative and other potential causes are addressed, such as a sharp tooth or bone rubbing against the affected area, it is possible that the patches may disappear on their own. However, for smokers this is not likely the case as the act of smoking prevents the mouth from healing. You may need to consult your emergency dentist for other therapies or find a way to quit, at least temporarily.

Mouth & Throat Cancer

Any form of tobacco has severe potential to result in mouth & throat cancer. Contrary to common misconceptions, smoking from a pipe is not any safer than cigarettes, and even smokeless alternatives like chewing tobacco can cause mouth & throat cancer. If you smoke or use smokeless alternatives to smoking, you should keep an eye out for symptoms.

Some symptoms of mouth & throat cancer:

  • A lump in the mouth or throat area
  • Leukoplakia, white or grey patches in the mouth
  • Sores, bleeding, numbness, sore throat or pain that does not go away
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat

If you are a smoker or former smoker you need to be especially alert for these symptoms. At the first sign or suspicion of mouth or throat cancer alert your emergency dentist as catching cancer early has your best chance of overcoming it.

Your emergency dentist is trained in recognizing potential symptoms and may be able to rule out symptoms, refer you to an oncologist, or even perform a biopsy.

Emergency Dentists Help You Maintain a Healthy, Beautiful Smile

High-risk activity like smoking means you always have to be extra aware of any potential symptoms of dental & oral conditions, diseases, and complications. Symptoms and their underlying causes can escalate quickly as a result of continued smoking, so leaving problems untreated leaves you at great risk. Prevent irreversible damage by contacting Dr. Judy Sturm for emergency dental services.

Learn More Learn More
New patients welcome!

Dr. Sturm builds long-lasting, trusting relationships with her patients. Her warm personality and expertise put even the most anxious patients at ease.

Book a Consultation Learn More
Healthy teeth for life

Get the most out of your office visits and keep your teeth healthy for life with good oral hygiene and regular visits.

Book your next checkup Learn More
Whiter teeth in minutes

Brighten your smile with Boost. State of the art whitening processes are great for discoloured, stained or aging teeth, and you’ll see dramatic results in as little as an hour! At-home whitening is also available.

Learn More Learn More
Hi-tech care

We offer the latest and greatest dental technology including digital x-rays and laser dentistry and our ITERO digital scanner. These high-tech tools reduce radiation, increase comfort, and offer our patients the best possible care every day.

Learn More Learn More

Can we contact you to book an appointment?

Just let us know the best way to reach you, and we’ll give you a call to set up your appointment.

ERROR Please fill out all fields to continue.
Toronto Downtown Dentists | Cosmetic Dentistry Toronto | Emergency Dentist Toronto | Toronto Dentist
Dr. Judy Sturm Dentistry Professional Corporation
77 Bloor St West, Suite 1202
Toronto, ON, M5S 1M2
(416) 967-4212

Warning: This website is not optimized for Internet Explorer 6.
Download Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, or Chrome.

Find out why this website is not optimized for Internet Explorer 6.