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You Shouldn't Smoke After Fluoride Treatment

Updated: Jan 17

Despite the lack of explicit instructions from manufacturers, common sense dictates that smoking is probably bad after fluoride treatment. Scientific studies unrelated to dental application of fluoride have shown potential adverse effects.

Fluoride treatment
Fluoride treatment

Instructions from fluoride treatment manufacturers

There are no mentions about smoking after fluoride treatment from all of the manufacturers which we've sampled. That means there is no guidance in regards to if you can or can't smoke after the procedure.

Different brands of fluoride varnish and their instructions:

We already read all of the instructions but you can double check if you'd like. They don't say anything about whether you can smoke or not after the application of the fluoride.

3M Vanish fluoride varnish

Since we're unable to get our answer directly through them, we will dig through some relevant scientific studies instead.

What about different types of fluoridated treatment?

We also took a look at APF fluoride gels, which are different from the varnish. The varnish applies a sticky gel that stays on your teeth while the APF uses a foaming gel in a tray that is applied to your teeth.

APF gel
APF gel

Unfortunately, the APF version of it does not mention anything about smoking either. Perhaps it is not a very common question?

Smoking may increase risk of fluoride toxicity

Smoking can lead to increased urinary levels of fluoride and that may increase your risk of fluoride toxicity. Higher levels of fluoride in your urine means that your kidneys aren't doing their job properly of excreting them. More fluoride floating around your system will inch you closer to fluoride toxicity.

There was a study about the effects of smoking and drinking tea on urinary fluoride levels.

  • Both smoking and tea consumption will lead to higher levels of fluoride.

  • However, a combination of smoking and drinking tea has a synergistic effect that worsens it by leading to even higher levels of fluoride.

lipton black tea

The conclusion of that study was that the fluoride never approached dangerous levels.

However they did caution those who were already taking in fluoride via other means. For example, if you were taking fluoride supplements you may want to be cognizant of the total amount of fluoride that you're getting into your system.

The smoking may potentially put you closer to the toxic fluoride level if you're currently undergoing fluoride treatment. Perhaps it may not be a good idea to get it if you smoke and you already have alternative sources of it in your diet.

All of this information was confirmed in an anesthesia study that used enflurane, an anesthesia that contains fluoride.

  • Smokers had an elevated level of inorganic fluoride in their serum.

  • The study did note that renal functions were not damaged nor harmed due to the increased levels of the inorganic mineral. That is at least one piece of good news.

Basically if you smoke, you don't process the fluoride as well and you run the risk of toxicity.

Does it apply to regular toothpaste with fluoride?

You may be wondering if the above two rules also apply to regular fluoridated toothpaste. Unfortunately there are no instructions in regards to tobacco for toothpaste.

However we know that a lot of people smoke. Some smoke before they brush, some smoke afterwards, and the chainsmokers do so for both!

The difference is that for the toothpaste, it leaves no sticky film on your teeth. It is also significantly less concentrated than the varnish so you don't have any toxicity issues.

Concentration differences:

  • Varnish comes in 5% sodium fluoride.

  • Toothpaste is 0.25% sodium fluoride.

Basically the treatment at your dentist is about 20x more concentrated and that brings you closer to toxic levels. Still short of it but nonetheless, much closer than toothpaste.

Smoking may decrease fluoride's topical benefit

None of the instructions on any of the fluoride products may have mentioned smoking but they did say something about avoiding hot beverages. Cool or room temperature beverages were permitted but you weren't allowed to drink hot coffee immediately after treatment.

No explanation was given as to why hot liquids was not permitted but cool ones were.

The only reason which we can think of is that for fluoride varnish treatment, it forms a sticky film over your teeth. Then you're not supposed to eat or drink for 2-6 hours depending on the instructions in order to let the fluoride absorb into the teeth. Leaving it undisturbed will let you maximize the intake of the tooth strengthening mineral.

Hot liquids may melt that sticky film which is on your teeth. That would undo everything that you're trying to accomplish. If the film melts off too early, your teeth won't get the amount of fluoride that it was supposed to go.

After all, it is a topical treatment which means that it works by being in physical contact with the tooth. If you prevent the material from being on your teeth, you won't receive any of the benefits.

Ultimately you shouldn't smoke right after because the heat from the smoke may interfere with the sticky film. In other words, you'll be decreasing the benefit that you may get from it if you do.

So, can you smoke after fluoride?

Overall you should not be smoking after fluoride treatment. The heat from the tobacco may interfere with the varnish from staying on your teeth. That will make the treatment less effective and you would've wasted your money getting it. Therefore in order to maximize the value you get out of it, you should refrain from smoking for about 4 hours.

If that wasn't enough persuasion for you, studies have shown that smoking leads to higher levels of urinary fluoride. That means your body isn't excreting it properly and that increases the risk of you becoming intoxicated with fluoride from excessive intake.

However there were no dangers that were reported from the studies since the levels never got high enough from it. Nonetheless, they did caution that if you were getting other sources of fluoride in your diet, you should be careful.



David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

Association Memberships:

Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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