You May Lose Your Teeth from Smoking

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New study shows smoking over a long period of time can lead to loss of teethA new study says that smokers, particularly postmenopausal women, can actually lose their teeth.

The first to look at the link behind tooth loss and smoking history, this study comprised over 1,100 women who were part of the famous Women’s Health Initiative in the U.S. It is no health secret that smoking can accelerate tooth loss, but we now know that postmenopausal women are at higher risk than others.

It doesn’t matter how much brushing and flossing they do, older women suffer tooth loss at a greater rate than men. Perhaps that is linked in some way with greater risk for osteoporosis (for both, calcium would be a key factor), but the researchers here were targeting cigarettes.

PLUS: A common culprit of gum disease.

Heavy smokers, they found, had about twice the rate of tooth loss caused by gum disease (compared to people who never smoked). Heavy smoking was defined as a pack a day for 26 years. And the more a woman smoked, the more likely tooth loss was to happen.

The tooth loss here is due to gum (periodontal) disease, which leads to some important considerations. It’s been linked to cancer, for one. And associated tooth loss is also connected to greater risks for stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes as well.

Chemicals in cigarette smoke, which include dozens of carcinogens, contribute to gum disease and help the bacteria that live in your mouth to form plaque. Nicotine also weakens bones and possibly reduces estrogen levels, as well, in women who smoke.

The next big question is if smokers with gum disease should be assessed regularly for certain cancers for which they may be at higher risk.

“Tooth loss due to periodontal disease is a prevalent condition among postmenopausal women that severely impacts their dietary intake, aesthetics, and overall quality of life,” the researchers write. “Women now have yet another, very tangible reason for quitting smoking.”

Sources for Today’s Articles:
You May Lose Your Teeth from Smoking
Mai, X., et al., “Associations between smoking and tooth loss according to the reason for tooth loss,” Journal of the American Dental Association; published online March 1, 2013.