Smokers Teeth: Removing Tobacco Stains from Teeth
For many adults who smoke cigarettes, stained teeth from smoking is a real problem.
In this article, we’ll discuss how tobacco stains the teeth and explore ways to remove these stains, as recommended by experts.
Does Nicotine Stain Your Teeth?
The answer is yes, nicotine is known to stain teeth. When the tobacco in a cigarette burns at high temperatures chemicals that include nicotine and tar are released. It’s this process that leads tobacco in cigarettes to cause smoking teeth stains. Many smokers may find that it doesn’t take long for teeth to show signs of tarnishing.
Teeth stains can vary in colour, but discolouration usually first appears as yellow. This can turn brown over time if you carry on smoking.1 Contrary to common belief, vaping nicotine is considered less harmful than continuing to smoke.2 While vaping doesn’t burn tobacco and produce tar, many vapes do include nicotine, which discolours on contact with oxygen. However, teeth staining that appears through vaping will likely be far less visible than the effects on teeth stains from continued smoking.
Smoke-Free Products and Teeth Stains
When it comes to smoke-free nicotine replacement products - like vapes, smokeless tobacco and other nicotine products such as gum - none of these products contain the tar that’s found in cigarettes.
However, this doesn’t mean that these products won’t stain your teeth, as they still usually contain nicotine.
Many dentists and dental experts are in support of the UK Government’s commitment to a smoke-free future. What’s more, the British Dental Association (BDA) itself recognises that the effects on oral health from vaping are still considerably less than those caused by smoking cigarettes.
A recent analysis and study into Nicotine Vaping in England (2022) provide a detailed report on the aspects of vaping in relation to oral health.
The report, states that:
“Oral or dental health has been researched more extensively than other health areas. However, the quality of the studies was often low. Recent reviews concluded that vaping would be detrimental to oral or dental health among people who have never vaped or smoked but would likely be beneficial for smokers switching. We found no studies that would change that conclusion." 3
In short, the effects of vaping on the teeth are not yet fully understood. However, recent reviews show it’s likely that switching from vaping to smoking could be beneficial.4
Want to learn more about the effects of vaping on your teeth? Read our guide on ‘The Dental Dilemma: Can Dentists Tell If You Vape?’ for further information.
There are other smoke-free alternative products available that contain nicotine and tobacco such as heated tobacco, and chewing tobacco.5 As we’ve discussed, tobacco products will cause teeth to stain and this includes both heated tobacco and chewing tobacco.
The Cochrane Review into E-Cigarettes 2020 presents this finding about vapes. “Vaping is 70% more effective than nicotine replacement therapy”7 - so it’s useful to explore the options available when deciding which one (if any) is right for you.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy and Teeth Stains
Nicotine replacement Therapy (NRT) is a way of using nicotine without smoking. The NHS recommends a variety of methods that avoid tar, carbon monoxide and many of the other chemicals found in cigarette smoke - all while offering low levels of nicotine to the user.6
Each method works differently, depending on how it is used, but all of these products have one thing in common - they all contain some level of nicotine.
Nicotine patches are one example of an NRT that won’t stain teeth. This is because patches aren’t taken orally, and work by placing a strip on the skin - absorbing the nicotine into the bloodstream throughout the day.8
Other products in the NRT category include:4
- Skin patches
- Chewing gum
- Tablets and lozenges
- Nasal and mouth spray
There are even some products, that claim to actually whiten teeth, like Nicorette Icy White Gum.9
How to Remove Tobacco Stains from Your Teeth
For those smokers who want to know more about what they can do to limit teeth stains from tobacco products, there are a number of practical solutions that can help remove smokers' teeth stains.
In recent years, cosmetic dentistry such as teeth whitening - a procedure that bleaches the surface of the teeth to improve the look of your smile - is becoming more widely available. These procedures can whiten the look of teeth and should only be carried out by a dentist or regulated dental professional. The dentist will make an impression of your teeth during your first visit, and make a mouthguard to fit your mouth exactly.
Once the procedure is done, you’ll have to apply a gel at home to the inside of the mouthguard and put it on. Many people usually wear this at night. Over the next few weeks, your teeth should gradually begin to lighten to a whiter shade.10
While these procedures can make your teeth lighter, the procedure isn’t permanent and only lasts up to three years. That said, if you continue to smoke, the effect of teeth whitening won’t last as long.
How to Take Care of Your Teeth and Prevent Smokers Teeth Stains
For every one of us, taking good care of our oral health is important. There are measures you can add to your daily routine to help take care of teeth, and some of these can even prevent teeth stains While there’s no miracle fix for how to remove tobacco stains from teeth instantly, by following a few steps, you can support your oral health - and potentially cut down on visits to the dentist.
Below, we’ve included some of the NHS guidance for looking after your oral health:11
- Brush your teeth twice a day - using fluoride toothpaste is recommended by dentists.12
- Floss regularly - including between the teeth to remove food debris and plaque from teeth and gums.
- Eat well - cutting down on alcohol and reducing sugar intake is good for your teeth and gums.
- Have regular check-ups at the dentist - regular visits will catch any problems early, and can make treating existing issues easier.
When it comes to smoking, the very best decision you can make - not only the health of your mouth, but your health overall - is to stop smoking altogether.
- The Effect That Smoking Has On Your Oral Health, NHS 2020: https://www.qvh.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-effect-that-smoking-has-on-your-oral-health-Rvw-Feb-2020.pdf
- NHS, Vaping to Quit Smoking: https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/vaping-to-quit-smoking/#:~:text=Nicotine%20itself%20is%20not%20very,to%20help%20people%20stop%20smoking
- Nicotine Vaping in England: 2022 Evidence Update Summary: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update-summary
- BDA, Stoptober 2022 - Supporting Patients to Quit Smoking: https://bda.org/news-centre/latest-news-articles/Pages/Stoptober-2022-Supporting-patients-to-quit-smoking.aspx
- NHS Live Well / Quit Smoking: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/paan-bidi-and-shisha-risks/#:~:text=Chewing%20smokeless%20tobacco%2C%20such%20as,oesophageal%20(food%20pipe)%20cancer
- NHS Stop Smoking Treatments: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stop-smoking-treatments/
- Cochrane Review, 2020: https://www.cochrane.org/news/latest-cochrane-review-finds-high-certainty-evidence-nicotine-e-cigarettes-are-more-effective
- Royal Free NHS, Nicotine Replacement Therapy: https://www.royalfree.nhs.uk/patients-visitors/stop-smoking/treatment-to-help-you-stop-smoking/nicotine-replacement-therapy/nicotine-oral-strips/#:~:text=Nicotine%20oral%20strips%20are%20a,absorption%20occurring%20within%20three%20minutes.
- Nicorette.co.uk: https://www.nicorette.co.uk/products/nicorette-gum#:~:text=The%20tar%20and%20nicotine%20in,fight%20cravings%20while%20whitening%20teeth
- NHS Teeth Whitening: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/teeth-whitening/
- NHS, Take Care of Your Teeth and Gums: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/take-care-of-your-teeth-and-gums/
- NHS, How to Keep Your Teeth Clean: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/