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Hookah smoking takes a bite out of oral health

Many people who aren’t cigarette smokers—and say they never will be—are developing a hankering for hookah.

From urban lounges to suburban poolsides, hookah smoking is picking up steam across America, especially among young people. It’s a bad fad, considering the results of a recent study published in the November issue of the Journal of Periodontology. Its findings show that hookah smoking is just as bad, or worse, than cigarette smoking for users' teeth.

A hookah is a water pipe filled with an infusion of tobacco, fruit and molasses fired by charcoal. Smoking the hookah after a meal or to show respect for guests is a common social custom in India, Asia and the Middle East. The practice originated in Turkey more than 500 years ago.

Now, with flavors available such as apple, mango, cappuccino and even Coca-Cola, some doctors are reportedly worried about teen addiction. They say adolescents who might not try cigarettes might give the sweet hookah a try.

The study's findings show that the impact of water-pipe smoking on the teeth is about equal to that of cigarette smoking. The prevalence of tooth-related diseases was 30 percent for water-pipe smokers, 24 percent for cigarette smokers and 8 percent for nonsmokers.

Additionally, toxic substances don't dissolve in a water pipe, experts say. The researchers found increased levels of nicotine in plasma, saliva and urine, suggesting that water-pipe smoking affects tissues in the same way as cigarette smoking.

"Even though the smoke is filtered out by water, inhalation of toxic substances is similar to or even greater than that of cigarette smoking," said Dr. Kenneth Krebs, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "Not only does water-pipe smoking include the same substances as cigarette smoke such as carbon monoxide and tar, tobacco used for water-pipe smoking contains 2 to 4 percent nicotine verses 1 to 3 percent for cigarettes."

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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