Smoking exposes your teeth to both tobacco and nicotine. As a result, stained, yellow teeth and bad breath are likely to happen.

Plus, the more you smoke, the more it affects your sense of taste. What you eat and drink also affects your teeth.

Smoking can also lower your immune system, putting you at risk for gum disease, as well as contribute to oral cancer.

Here’s what you need to know about smoking and oral health.

The nicotine and tar in tobacco smoke can cause yellow or stained teeth. Brushing your teeth several times a day is one way to improve their appearance. This not only prevents staining, it also protects against gum disease.

It also helps to choose a toothpaste that’s designed to fight teeth stains for people who smoke. These toothpastes include special ingredients to help improve discoloration.

Look for the following ingredients:

You can also whiten teeth at home using homemade toothpaste. To do this, add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to baking soda. Be careful not to use too strong of a solution of hydrogen peroxide, though. You could damage your teeth.

Although brushing your teeth more frequently can help prevent and get rid of smoke stains, toothpaste may provide little results for severe discoloration.

In this case, you’ll likely need an over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whitening product. These include whitening strips or whitening gels with whitening agents applied to the teeth in sessions.

OTC products can remove stains below the surface and improve the appearance of your teeth. But these products aren’t likely to get your teeth completely white.

Depending on the severity of staining, you may need professional teeth whitening to remove nicotine stains on teeth.

This may involve an in-office teeth whitening treatment, a customized at-home teeth whitening system, or both for stronger stain removal.

Even if professional teeth whitening gets rid of stains, the results won’t last if you continue to smoke. You might need to repeat treatments every year.

“Smoker’s breath” is another issue some people have. This is caused by early stages of gum disease or dry mouth due to decreased saliva production.

Here are a few options to help eliminate smoker’s breath:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss at least once a day.
  • Increase your fluid intake to prevent dry mouth.
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash for dry mouth.
  • Chew sugarless gum.
  • Suck on a peppermint.
  • Schedule regular dental cleanings to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth.
  • Cut back on smoking, or stop altogether. Give these tips a try to help you quit cold turkey.

There’s no tobacco in e-cigarettes, so many people believe that vaping is better for oral health.

While e-cigarettes don’t produce smoke, the vapor contains nicotine. In addition, e-cigarettes still contain other chemicals and heavy metals — albeit less than cigarettes — that are bad for the body and teeth.

The nicotine in these products can damage gum tissue and reduce saliva production, resulting in bad breath, receding gums, and tooth loss.

Giving up smoking benefits oral health because it reduces the likelihood of developing gum disease.

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection that affects the gum line. It develops when tartar and bacteria accumulate below or above the gums, resulting in inflammation.

Gum disease is linked with smoking because people who smoke tend to have more tartar on their teeth than nonsmokers. The nicotine in tobacco reduces saliva production, making it easier for tarter and bacteria to build up in the mouth.

Even if you’ve smoked for many years, quitting can improve your oral health and reduce the likelihood of gum disease and tooth loss.

In one study, researchers followed 49 people who smoked and had chronic gum disease over a 12-month period. These participants were helped to stop smoking through the use of nicotine replacement therapy, medication, and counseling.

At the end of the 12-month study, about one-fifth of the participants had stopped smoking. They noted significant improvements in their oral health.

More scientific reviews have been done that show quitting smoking reduces the risk of the onset and progression of gum disease. Smokers have approximately an 80 percent higher risk for bone loss and periodontal disease than those who don’t smoke.

It’s never too late to quit, even if you’ve smoked for a long time. You’ll still see immediate and long-term benefits.

Quitting smoking doesn’t only protect your teeth. It also lowers the chance of:

Since smoking weakens the immune system, it also becomes harder for the body to fight the infection. As a result, the bones supporting teeth weaken, causing tooth loss.

Here are a few tips to help you quit smoking and improve your oral health.

Avoid triggers

Being around other people while they’re smoking can intensify your cravings.

Do your best to avoid people and locations where you’re tempted to smoke. Spend time at places that prohibit smoking. Don’t accompany people on their smoke breaks.

Keep busy

Staying busy and distracted can also help you manage cravings. The mind can only focus on one thing at a time. If you feel the urge to smoke, throw yourself into an activity or project.

Consider nicotine replacement therapy

Using a nicotine patch or chewing nicotine gum can reduce cravings, making it easier to give up smoking. Follow the package’s directions carefully. It’s possible to develop a nicotine dependence on these types of products.

If OTC products don’t work, ask your doctor about medications to help you quit smoking, like Chantix.

Remind yourself why you’re quitting

Everyone has a motivation for quitting. Some want to improve their overall health. Others do it for their family. Maybe you just want to save money.

Regularly reflect on why you’re giving up the habit. This can help you overcome strong urges.

Pick yourself back up

If you find yourself lighting up, don’t beat yourself up or feel that it’s impossible to quit. Many people experience setbacks while quitting. Stay positive and get back on track.

Get therapy

Sometimes breaking a smoking habit may require behavioral therapy to overcome rituals and learn new ways to cope with problems. Therapy can help if you’re more likely to smoke when stressed or upset.

Here are some ways to find therapy at every budget.

Smoking can have a negative impact on your oral health, increasing your risk for gum disease, tooth loss, bad breath, and oral cancer. The best gift you can give your teeth is to stop smoking.

If you’re not ready to quit yet, you can still take care of your teeth. The same dental health habits apply: Make sure you brush at least twice a day and floss daily. See your dentist at least twice a year to help fight gum disease and prevent teeth stains.