New study shows smokers are at higher risk of losing teeth

September 16, 2015
Laura Dorr
Laura Dorr

Laura Dorr is the executive editor of DPR's Modern Dental Network.

A recent study in Germany examined a group of over 23,000 subjects to explore the relationship between cigarette smoking, smoking cessation and rates of tooth loss.

 

Everyone knows smoking is bad for your lungs, but new research has confirmed that smoking is also a bad idea if you want to keep your teeth.

A recent study in Germany examined a group of over 23,000 subjects to explore the relationship between cigarette smoking, smoking cessation and rates of tooth loss.

When it comes to tooth loss, periodontal disease is a predominant cause. Since smoking can mask symptoms of periodontitis such as gum bleeding, a smoker’s gums may appear healthier than they really are. As such, dentists may miss key clues that could indicate severe gum disease. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, smokers have an increased prevalence and severity of periodontal disease, and make up 86 to 90 percent of refractory periodontics cases.

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“Most teeth are lost as a result of either caries (tooth decay) or chronic periodontitis (gum disease),” said lead author Professor Thomas Dietrich from the University of Birmingham. “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.”

Ultimately, the study concluded that smokers are at higher risk of losing teeth than those who say no to cigarettes. Researchers also reported that male smokers are up to 3.6 times more likely to lose their teeth than their non-smoking counterparts. Women who smoke were 2.5 times more likely to lose teeth.

Young smokers and pack-a-day folks should be even more concerned: The association was stronger in young people and heavy smokers.

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“The association between smoking and the incidence of tooth loss was stronger in men than women and stronger in younger versus older individuals," study authors reported. "Heavy smoking (15 or more cigarettes per day) was associated with three times higher risk of tooth loss in men and more than twice the risk of tooth loss in women.”

Luckily, researchers stated in the study, if smokers quit the habit, their risk of tooth loss is reduced to that of non-smokers: “Smoking cessation was consistently associated with a reduction in tooth loss risk,” the study concluded, “with the risk of tooth loss approaching that of never smokers after approximately 10 to 20 years of cessation.”

The study, “Smoking, smoking cessation, and risk of tooth loss,” was published in the Journal of Dental Research in August 2015.