Secondhand Smoke May Lead to Tooth Decay in Infants

Secondhand smoke may contribute to an increased risk of tooth decay in infants, according to a new study from the British Medical Journal.

Researchers determined this after conducting an overview of 76,920 children born between 2004 and 2010 in Kobe City, Japan, who had received health check-ups at birth, 4, 9 and 18 months, and 3 years. The overview included assessing parent-reported questionnaires on smoking and measured decay levels in deciduous teeth.

According to the study, infants who were exposed to tobacco smoke at 4 months of age were twice as likely to experience tooth decay, and determined the risk of tooth decay increased by 1.5 times among those exposed to household smoking.

Smoking can be devastating to oral health for everyone in the family. In addition to increasing the risk for cavities, it can also lead to other mouth problems including:

  • stained teeth and tongue

  • a dulled sense of taste and smell

  • slow healing after a tooth extraction or other surgery

  • difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems

  • gum disease

  • oral cancer

Quitting is the only way to decrease your risk and your children's risk of these and other tobacco-related health problems. The addictive quality of nicotine, which is found in cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco, can make quitting especially difficult. That's why it's important to have a plan and a support network, people to help you stick to your plan. Write down your reasons for quitting. Exercising, chewing gum and keeping yourself occupied can help you quit. Talk to your dentist or doctor to see if the medications available would help you to stop using tobacco.

Each year the American Cancer Society holds Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday in November. This year's event is Nov. 19.

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