Smoking Causes More Than Bad Breath

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but here’s another reason you should make the effort: Smoking is more than just a cause of bad breath — it significantly raises your risk of developing oral cancer, which includes cancer of the mouth, throat, salivary glands, tongue or lip.

In the early stages, oral and throat cancers can have symptoms similar to a toothache or they are painless. Many cases of oral cancer are seriously advanced by the time they are detected. That’s why it is important to examine your mouth periodically—if oral cancer is identified early, it is almost always treatable.

Bad breath is an early sign of oral cancer, whether or not you are a smoker. Other early signs of oral cancer include lumps or white, red or dark patches inside the mouth, difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving the jaw, feeling that something is stuck in the throat, numbness in the mouth, thickening of the cheeks, or voice changes.

Tobacco use is the top risk factor for oral cancer, so the best way to reduce risk is to quit smoking or using other tobacco products. But other keys to oral cancer prevention and the promotion of oral health include seeing a dentist regularly and following a complete oral care routine that includes twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing.