How Smoking Affects Oral and Vision Health

It’s no secret that smoking can cause a number of major health concerns, but did you know the significant threat it poses to your oral and vision health?

Oral Health

Smoking can leave a mark on your oral health in obvious ways such as yellowed teeth and bad breath. But over time, tobacco can cause underlying issues, as well.

Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth. It is caused by a buildup of harmful bacteria, and chemicals in tobacco products can worsen the disease by reducing saliva and making it easier for bacteria to stick to teeth and gums. The CDC reports that smokers have more than twice the risk for gum disease compared to non-smokers.

Smoking also interferes with your immune system, making it difficult for your body to fight off conditions like gum infections. Periodontal treatment may not have the same successful outcome for a smoker as a nonsmoker, because smoking makes it harder for your gums to heal.


Smoking can cause cancer in almost any part of your body, but most commonly causes oral, throat and lung cancer. In fact, approximately 80 percent of people with oral or oropharyngeal cancer use tobacco in the form of cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Dulled Taste

New studies show that prolonged smoking can affect your taste buds. The toxic chemicals in cigarettes interact with your tongue in such a way that the taste buds lose their shape. They don’t disappear—smokers and non-smokers have the same number of taste buds— the taste buds just get worse at doing their job.

Vision Health

Smoking causes harm to nearly every organ in your body— and that includes your eyes. Major health problems such as heart disease, stroke and cancer are commonly known as side effects of smoking, but it can also cause sight-threatening diseases.


A cataract is the clouding of normally clear lenses of your eye. Having a cataract has been compared to looking out of a foggy window. Studies have found that smokers have double the risk of developing cataracts compared with non-smokers. The risk triples for heavy smokers. Doctors believe smoking contributes to cataracts by altering the cells of the lens through oxidation.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration involves the deterioration of the macula, the central part of the retina that allows us to perceive fine details. As the macula wears out, people experience blurriness, distortions, or blind spots in their central vision. Doctors believe that smoking promotes macular degeneration by interfering with blood flow to the retina.

Smokers face a risk of developing macular degeneration that is two to four times greater than that of people who have never smoked.

The best way to eliminate these diseases/risks? Stop smoking. Be sure to be honest with your dentist and eye care professional (as well as other doctors) about your smoking habits.


TruAssureVBA dental plans are administered and underwritten by TruAssure and are offered in association with the DenteMax Plus dental network arrangement, which includes participating dentists from the United Concordia, DenteMax and Connection dental networks in all states but North Carolina, where the DenteMax Plus network arrangement includes DenteMax and Connection dental networks.

The information contained above is intended to be educational in nature, does not constitute medical advice, and should not be relied on as a substitute for actual professional medical advice, care or treatment. If you have any vision, dental or other health related concerns, VBA encourages you to immediately contact your optometrist/ophthalmologist, dentist/orthodontist or any other competent, licensed, medical professional.