Tobacco and Tooth Loss

It’s fairly common knowledge that using tobacco products is bad for your oral (and overall) health, but a recent study confirms just how bad smoking is in terms of tooth loss. The research was published in the Journal of Dental Research and results from a long-term longitudinal study of the EPIC Postdam cohort in Germany. Through analysis, scientists have determined that men who smoke are up to 3.6 times more likely to lose their teeth than their non-smoking counterparts. Female smokers were found to be 2.5 times more likely, according to a recent Science Daily article.

Oral disease is a global issue with nearly 30% of 65-74 year olds having lost all of their natural teeth. Professor Thomas Dietrich, lead author of the study, stated that most tooth loss is a result of either tooth decay or chronic periodontitis, or gum disease. “We know that smoking is a strong risk factor for periodontitis, so that may go a long way towards explaining the higher rate of tooth loss in smokers.”

Smoking can hide some of the more obvious signs of periodontitis, like gum bleeding, giving the appearance of healthier gums than are actually present. Unfortunately, this leads to later detection and diagnosis, once teeth have been significantly damaged. The good news, according to Dietrich, is that giving up the habit can rapidly reduce the risk. Over time, an ex-smoker will have the same risk for tooth loss as someone who has never smoked.

The study was based on data from 23,376 participants who were evaluated in regards to smoking, smoking cessation, and tooth loss in three different age groups. Other notable findings include:

  • a stronger association between smoking and tooth loss among younger people when compared to older groups
  • a higher risk of losing teeth among heavy smokers when compared with those who smoked fewer cigarettes.

Professor Heiner Boeing, of the German Institute of Human Nutrition, stated that “in addition to the many noted benefits for cardiovascular health, and risk of lung disease and cancer, it is clear that dental health is yet another reason not to take up smoking, or to quit smoking now.”

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