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Consumer News—Smoking affects oral health

Adults who are current smokers are four times more likely as those who've never smoked to have poor oral health status and twice as likely to have had three or more oral health problems, according to a new report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, "Smoking and Oral Health in Dentate Adults aged 18-64," says that current smokers not only have a poorer oral health status and more oral health problems than former smokers and those who've never smoked; they also are less likely to visit a dental health professional when experiencing a dental problem because they were unable to afford dental care.

The report highlights findings from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey, which examined differences among dentate current smokers, former smokers and never smokers ages 18 to 64 in terms of oral health status, number of oral health problems and the utilization of dental services.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Current smokers (16 percent) were twice as likely as former smokers (8 percent) and four times as likely as never smokers (4 percent) to have poor oral health status.
  • Current smokers (35 percent) were almost one and one-half times as likely as former smokers (24 percent) and more than two times as likely as never smokers (16 percent) to have had three or more oral health problems.
  • Current smokers (19 percent) were about twice as likely as former smokers (9 percent) and never smokers (10 percent) to have not had a dental visit in more than 5 years or have never had one.
  • Cost was the reason that most adults with an oral health problem did not see a dentist in the past 6 months; 56 percent of current smokers, 36 percent of former smokers and 35 percent of never smokers could not afford treatment or did not have insurance.

"The evidence for an association between tobacco use and oral diseases has been clearly shown in every Surgeon General's report on tobacco since 1964," said the report summary. "Tobacco use is a risk factor for oral cancers, periodontal diseases and dental caries, among other diseases. Oral health problems may be early warning signs of other medical problems such as diabetes, HIV, heart disease or stroke. Good oral health is integral to good general health."

The complete report is posted online at "" and can also be downloaded as a PDF document.

For more information, including frequently asked questions, details on the affects of tobacco use on oral health and resources on how to quit tobacco, visit

©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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