Smoker's Breath & Dry Mouth Causes & Remedies

According to World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently about 1.1 billion people who smoke regularly worldwide, despite tobacco's well-documented health risks. Smoking increases the risk of several types of cancers, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and ulcers. Eighty to 90% of all cases of oral cancer are attributed to tobacco use. Smoking is a major preventable cause of premature death and disease, leading to more than 6 million deaths annually worldwide, with 600,000 of those caused by exposure to second-hand smoke in nonsmokers. A 23-year-long study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association showed that cigars cause an equivalent rate of tooth loss and bone loss within the jawbone as cigarettes, while pipe smokers have a similar risk of tooth loss. Smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and snuff contain at least 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of oral, throat, and esophageal cancers.

Numerous studies have shown that cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco increase the risk of periodontal disease, bad breath (halitosis), dry mouth (xerostomia), tooth discoloration, increased plaque build-up, and delayed healing following tooth extraction and other types of oral treatment and surgery. Moreover, it has been shown that 83% of all oral thrush (candidiasis) cases affect moderate to heavy cigarette smokers.

What is Smoker's Breath?

Tar and nicotine residue from cigarettes adhere to the teeth, gums, tongue, and side of the cheeks. The chemicals in cigarettes linger in the mouth and lungs for hours, causing what is known as smoker's breath. This is distinguished from nonsmoking-related bad breath because of its duration and severity. Saliva is an essential fluid produced by the body that keeps the mouth, tongue, throat, and digestive system working optimally. Research shows that smoking may increase the activity of salivary glands when people first begin to smoke, however, long-term use reduces the salivary flow rate. Inadequate saliva enables the proliferation of bacteria that causes halitosis and xerostomia.

Research Findings

A study on 100 smokers and 100 nonsmokers analyzed changes in oral mucosa (ulceration, erythema, keratosis, discoloration), signs of periodontal diseases (gingivitis, mobility, bleeding on probing, clinical attachment loss), the existence of dental caries (cervical and occlusal decay), and self-reporting of halitosis and xerostomia. Published online in 2010, the study yielded the following data.

  • Halitosis was reported in 55% of smokers versus 28% of non-smokers.
  • The average salivary flow rate was statistically lower in smokers versus nonsmokers.
  • Gingivitis, tooth mobility, plaque, and cervical caries were significantly higher in smokers than in nonsmokers.

Past research has indicated that smokers have more plaque, poorer oral hygiene habits, visit dentists less frequently, and have poorer adherence to general health guidelines than nonsmokers. The authors of the above study surmised that these factors might increase the incidence of dental decay in smokers.

Smoking and Gum Disease

When plaque is allowed to accumulate near the gumline, it will harden and begin destroying teeth and gum tissues due to intense bacterial activity. This leads to gum disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis, which enable proteins from bleeding gums and diseased oral tissue to fuel odor-causing bacteria.

Smoking can lead to gum disease because it weakens the body's immune system, making it harder to fight off oral infections and impeding healing. The following statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscore the effects of smoking on gum health.

  • Smokers are four times more likely to develop advanced gum disease than nonsmokers.
  • The more cigarettes smoked and the longer you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease.
  • People who smoke are more resistant to successful treatment of gum disease due to tobacco's effects on healing.

Effective Relief for Smoker's Breath

The best remedy for combating the ill effects of smoking is to quit smoking. However, high quality mouthwashes and toothpaste are beneficial for treating many of the minor oral health ailments related to smoking. Ingredients such as chlorine dioxide or sodium chlorite neutralize sulfur compounds that are responsible for the foul odor associated with bad breath. Natural ingredients, including aloe vera, green tea, and probiotics are also effective for fighting halitosis.

TheraBreath Products That Combat Smoker's Breath

TheraBreath® PLUS Oral Rinse packs extra power to control even the most severe bad breath, like smoker's breath. Utilizing the combined natural powers of OXYD-8, green tea, aloe vera, tea tree oil and xylitol, this rinse has been clinically shown to alleviate and prevent halitosis while conditioning and refreshing.

TheraBreath's Mouth Wetting Lozenges are sugar-free, so they will not feed odor causing bacteria after they are dissolved. The citrus mint flavor quickly addresses foul odors, zinc and xylitol combat the germs that cause bad breath, and an added wetting agent stimulates saliva production to relieve dry mouth.

TheraBreath Fresh Breath Throat Spray has a nozzle that reaches to the back of the throat, an area difficult to fully tackle with brushing alone. The oxygenating effect of this spray hits one of the most stubborn sources of sulfur-producing bacteria and stops it at its source.

ZOX Mints and TheraBreath Chewing Gum are effective solutions for instantly neutralizing bad breath caused by smoking. They contain zinc, oxygen, and xylitol and have proven effectiveness as evidenced in clinical tests.


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