The number of deaths per year from smoking and second-hand smoke are well known: approximately 438,000 deaths from smoking and an additional 3,000 attributed to second-hand smoke.
Recent research has shown that those toxic fumes can also cause oral health problems in children.
In America, the habit of 45 million smokers alone has an alarmingly widespread impact on the oral health of more than 126 million non-smokers.
These 126 million non-smokers can be frequently exposed to unhealthy smoke in public areas, offices, vehicles, and in homes.
Involuntary smokers who are repeatedly exposed to second-hand smoke, specifically for young children, have a higher risk of developing tooth caries as well as problems with the progression of their oral development, in general.
The Study That Created The Link
According to a research spearheaded by Dr. Andrew Aligne from the University of Rochester, passive smoking may be a modifiable risk factor for tooth decay. This conclusion was made after conducting a study of the federal health information of almost 4,000 children with age ranging from 4 to 11. The assessment revealed that the problem was rampant among low-income families.
The rate of children with cavities is almost double in households exposed to smoking, even after taking into account other variables such as dental visits, nutrition status, family income, race, and sex. In order to measure the impact of smoking, the study measured the level of cotinine in the blood.
When inhaled by the person, the absorbed nicotine is converted to cotinine. Results showed that children who are exposed to more second-hand smoke had higher amounts of the compound in their bodies.
The Dose-Response Curve
The aforementioned association of nicotine levels in the body to tooth caries is what medical professionals call the dose-response curve.
Out of the 4,000 children subjected to the research, 47% had cavities in their baby teeth, while 26% had it in their permanent teeth. The correlation of this incidence with passive smoking is justified by the fact that when children spend more time with their smoking parents, the risk of cavity development increases.
While this study from the American team in New York may sound conclusive and valid, the British Dental Association has their reservations, stating that further research is required prior to establishing a definitive link between passive smoking and oral cavities. This is despite the fact that a similar study with the same conclusion was already conducted in Great Britain.
Dr. Aligne stated that there’s no clear basis as to how passive smoking can damage the oral health of children. However, this prevalence is exacted with smoking during pregnancy, where birth weight and growth, including tooth formation can all be affected.
Regardless of whatever conclusions are deduced on either health team, the study is aimed to raise the awareness of the damaging effects of smoking to one’s well-being. This encourages both dentists and parents to openly discuss about the negative outcomes of the addictive habit, not just on the latter’s oral health, but also on the health of innocent bystanders.
To read more on the effects of passive smoking from gdcliverpool.co.uk, visit: http://www.gdcliverpool.co.uk/2014/02/effects-of-passive-smoking/ or visit the NCBI’s website here, at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12633187