Can You Smoke After a Root Canal?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

A root canal can leave your mouth feeling numb and tender. If you smoke, you may wonder if it’s safe to do so after the procedure.

After a root canal, you’re not only recovering from an oral procedure, but you’re also more vulnerable to developing other oral health conditions if you smoke.

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Avoiding smoking can lead to better oral health as well as reduce your likelihood of getting root canals.

Why you shouldn’t smoke after a root canal

There are many reasons you should avoid smoking following a root canal:

  • First, the effects of smoking may increase your likelihood of getting a root canal.
  • Second, your body will be recovering following the procedure, and smoking may delay your healing.
  • Third, there are no tobacco products endorsed or approved by the American Dental Association, as smoking is considered unhealthy for your body, and in particular, your oral health.
Other factors to consider

Smoking in general is not good for your oral health, but it may leave you especially prone to root canals.

A 2020 review found that tobacco smokers have an increased chance of having a root canal. One previous study found that cigarette smokers were 1.7 times more likely to have root canal treatment than nonsmokers. This number decreased in people who quit cigarette smoking.

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You may be more susceptible to complications following your root canal if you smoke. Smoking can cause inflammation. Your body is less able to fight off infection, and you’ll be at risk of developing one following this procedure. Smoking also contributes to bone loss, decreases how your blood carries oxygen, and leads to dysfunction of your blood vessels.

Following your procedure, your mouth will be numb and recovering. A numb mouth could cause you to bite your cheek, tongue, or lips. You may also need medication for pain, which may not be compatible with smoking.

How long should you wait to smoke after a root canal?

There are no specific guidelines on how long you should wait to smoke after a root canal. Keep in mind that your mouth will be numb and sensitive after the procedure.

Follow your doctor’s instructions about when you can engage in activities involving your mouth. For example, you should probably wait until the numbness wears off to chew food in the area of the mouth where the root canal was performed.

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If you’ve been thinking about trying to quit smoking, now might be a good time to take steps to do so.

Alternatives to smoking

Smoking is addictive and habitual, so it can be difficult to stop doing it. There are several behaviors you can try to delay the need to smoke. Some include:

  • Busying yourself when you feel the urge to smoke, such as engaging in a hobby, walking around the block, or performing a household task.
  • Chewing gum or sucking on sugar-free candies or lozenges to stimulate your mouth when you would normally smoke.
  • Drinking a glass of water.
  • Exercising, such as walking, running, swimming, or playing sports.
  • Focusing on your breathing by taking deep breaths and paying attention to your inhalations and exhalations.

Smoking and dental issues

Smoking and tobacco use are generally linked to many dental issues. This is because your mouth is full of living tissue, and the act of smoking and the chemicals in tobacco products attack it. This can cause:

  • gum disease
  • cavities
  • tartar buildup
  • shifting teeth

It also contributes to bad breath and tooth staining.

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You may develop gum disease if you smoke. Tobacco use affects blood flow to your gums, which blocks nutrients and oxygen to your mouth and causes complications. Smoking also lowers your body’s immune system, making you less able to fight off gum infections and heal from gum damage.

You’re also at risk of developing oral cancer if you smoke.

When to see a dentist

You should see a dentist at least twice a year regardless of whether you smoke. Make sure you discuss your smoking habits with your dentist so they can check for any problems and provide counseling if you would like to quit.

See a dentist if you suspect you need a root canal. If your tooth hurts, feels more sensitive than usual, cracks, or develops a pimple on the gums near a tooth, you may need a root canal. Discolored gums may also be a symptom.

Resources and support

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Quitting smoking can reduce the likelihood of your developing many dental conditions. It may be difficult to cease the habit because smoking is addictive. But it’s possible.

Resources to consider

There are many resources available to help you quit smoking, and continue to live smoke-free. Here are a few to get you started:

  • text messaging help
  • telephone services, such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW
  • social media support
  • support groups

The bottom line

There are no hard and fast rules about smoking after a root canal. But smoking is not beneficial for your oral health and can increase your risks for root canals and other oral conditions.

Smoking makes you more prone to inflammation and infection, which can occur following a root canal. You’ll have a numb and sore mouth following your procedure, so smoking may not be desirable.

Quitting smoking can improve your overall health. If you’re considering quitting smoking, you can discuss it with your doctor.

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