Can Secondhand Smoke Affect Your Oral Health?

You may know that smoking can be detrimental for your teeth, causing stains, bad breath, and a host of other problems, but did you realize that simply being around a smoker can also be damaging to your oral health? Secondhand smoke can seriously affect your teeth and gums, so by better understanding this public health concern, you can take steps to protect yourself.

What Oral Health Concerns Can Result from Secondhand Smoke?

Inhaling cigarette and cigar fumes, even if you aren't the one that is actually smoking, can put you at risk for a variety of oral health problems:

•  Bone loss. According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology in 2007, being exposed to as little as 30 days of secondhand smoke can lead to a higher oral bone loss rate than others. This is because the dangerous compounds and chemicals found in secondhand smoke can cause the bone tissue or the mouth to deteriorate.
•  Tooth decay. Being exposed consistently to secondhand smoke will compromise your body's ability to fend off cavities, making you more susceptible to decay. Unfortunately, this is often seen in the mouths of children who have parents that are smokers. It is thought that kids who are subjected to secondhand smoke at home have a 27% greater risk of developing cavities than other children.
•  Gum disease. Periodontal disease will occur when plaque builds up under the gums and disrupts the tissue. This can lead to the development of pockets of infection, bleeding, and even potential tooth loss. According to the American Journal of Public Health, people exposed to secondhand smoke will have a higher rate of severe periodontitis than people who were not exposed to secondhand smoke.
•  Oral cancer. There are a ton of carcinogens found in cigarette and cigar smoke, so exposure to secondhand smoke can increase a person's risk of developing oral cancer.



What Are the Other Risks?

While the effects on your mouth are scary, enough on their own, secondhand smoke can also affect your health in other ways:

•  Breathing in secondhand smoke can have immediate effects on the blood vessels, increasing your heart attack risk.
•  Secondhand smoke exposure can result in stroke and coronary heart disease.
•  Secondhand smoke can result in lung cancer, even in adults that have never smoked.
•  Secondhand smoke exposure could increase the risk that an infant may suffer from SIDS.
•  Secondhand smoke exposure can result in serious health problems with children, including getting sick more often, wheezing, coughing, development of asthma, and the development of more ear infections than children who are not exposed to secondhand smoke.


How Can You Lower Your Risk?

Unfortunately, the only good way to reduce your risk of dental damage as a result of secondhand smoke is to stay away from smoking and related fumes whenever possible. Encourage your loved ones to quit smoking, as this could preserve both your health and the health of the rest of your family. If you do live with smokers, ask them to smoke outside and use air cleaners to keep the air around you fresh and free of toxins.

You should also remember that a good oral health regimen is needed to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Besides consistent brushing and flossing, you should see your dentist regularly for cleanings. In addition to screening the mouth for gum disease and cavities, your dentist can also let you know if he or she detects signs that secondhand smoke is affecting the health of your mouth.

If you are concerned about the health of your teeth - or if you simply haven't been to the dentist in a while - contact our office to set up an appointment.

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