Lifestyle Factors Affect Oral Health

You try to brush, floss and see your dentist regularly. But, if you smoke or skimp on sleep, your lifestyle choices could still be hurting your oral health.

Japanese researchers studied 219 factory workers in Osaka, Japan, who underwent health checkups in 1999 and 2003. Participants were examined for periodontal disease and completed a lifestyle questionnaire that asked about eight lifestyle categories: smoking, alcohol consumption, hours of sleep, breakfast, nutritional balance, working hours, exercise and mental health. They were also asked about their frequency of tooth brushing, their tooth brushing method and their use of interdental cleaners.

Smoking and getting less than six hours of sleep per night were the two most significant lifestyle factors that led to worsening periodontal health, researchers found, with ratios of 2.3 and 2.1, respectively. Data showed that 38.5 percent of periodontal disease progression could be attributed to current smoking.

"Our findings are in line with other studies that have identified smoking as a strong lifestyle factor affecting oral health," said Dr. Muneo Tananka, study author. "However, studies that have looked at hours of sleep as an independent factor affecting periodontal health are limited. From this study, we can speculate that shortage of sleep can impair the body's immune response, which may lead to the progression of diseases such as periodontal disease."

Smoking, they concluded, may suppress the host-defense system, which may promote periodontal disease progression.

The American Dental Association offers a wealth of resources to help smokers quit; visit "".

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tobacco's greatest threat to your health may be its association with oral cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that:

  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

  • About 37 percent of patients who continue to smoke after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx. While only 6 percent of people who quit smoking will develop these secondary cancers.

  • Smokeless tobacco has been linked to cancers of the cheek, gums and inner surface of the lips. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of these cancers by nearly 50 times.7