Smoking Could Save Your Teeth
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Smokers who give up are much less
likely to lose their teeth prematurely than those who donít kick
the habit, pioneering research has shown.
Dental researchers at the University of Newcastle upon
Tyne, UK, observed a group of cigarette smokers with chronic gum disease over one year and
found some symptoms were more likely to improve in the people who quit during the study
Chronic gum disease, which is characterized by inflamed
gums that increasingly recede from the teeth, can lead to tooth loss in its advanced
stages if preventive action is not taken.
The researchers findings, revealed today in the
academic publication, the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, therefore provide yet
another reason for the 12 million UK adult smokers (just over one-quarter of the adult
population) and smokers worldwide to quit their habit for the good of their health.
Statistics show that smokers are still up to six times more
likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers, because the detrimental effect the habit
has on their bodys immune system makes them less well-equipped to fight back.
The study, which is the first of its kind, followed 49
smokers with chronic gum disease over one year. All were encouraged to stop smoking
through counselling and, in some cases, using nicotine replacement therapy and/or
medication. All of the patients also received treatment for their gum disease.
One-fifth of the patients quit smoking, and in those
patients, gum health was significantly improved compared to those who continued to smoke
over the 12 months
Gum disease is initiated by a build up of bacteria in
plaque, the sticky white substance that accumulates on the teeth if they are not properly
cleaned. The bacteria cause the gums to become inflamed, and they begin to recede from the
teeth. At the same time, the bone that holds the teeth in place is gradually destroyed so
that over a number of years, teeth may start to become loose and may fall out, or need to
The disease is usually painless and thus only discovered
when people visit their dentist. The progression of chronic gum disease can often be
prevented by a good, daily oral health routine, together with preventive care by a dentist
and dental hygienist.
Dr Philip Preshaw (pictured above, left), a clinical
lecturer in periodontology (the specialists term for gum disease) with Newcastle
Universitys School of Dental Sciences, led the research. He said: Our study
shows that people should stop smoking now if they want to increase their chances of
keeping their teeth into old age.
Often the dentist is in the best position to help
them stop smoking, because most people, if they are going for regular dental appointments,
have more contact with him or her than with their doctor.
Dentists have known for some time that smokers have
worse oral and gum health than non-smokers but for the first time we have shown that
quitting smoking together with routine gum treatment results in healthier gums.
Dr Preshaw added: It is very important to look after
your teeth, because losing them will have a huge influence on your life. Not only will
this affect your appearance, it can also impact on your confidence, lifestyle, and so much
For example, losing teeth could prevent you from
eating a healthy diet. You are less likely to chose to eat something like an apple if your
teeth are loose, because it would be difficult to bite and chew it.
The UK Governments Department of Health has promoted
the idea of smoking cessation counselling by dentists, and dental students at Newcastle
University are now taught how to counsel patients on this issue as part of their degree.
Newcastle Dental Hospital has a full-time smoking cessation counsellor to whom patients
can be referred.
Professor Raman Bedi, the Governments Chief Dental
Officer, welcomed this research, stating: Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor
for periodontitis, which affects the support structures of the tooth and is an important
cause of tooth loss.
All members of the dental team, just like any health
professional, can play an important role in helping people stop smoking.
Newcastle Universitys Dental School is a
shining example by ensuring dental students are now taught how to counsel patients on this
issue as part of their dental degree.
Amanda Sandford, Research Manager for ASH, commented:
"As gum disease is often painless, smokers may be completely unaware of the impact
their smoking can have on oral health.
But the increased risk of tooth loss may be enough to
persuade many to quit smoking. Dentists must do all they can to inform patients of the
risks and to assist patients who smoke to stop before the disease takes hold."
The research was funded by the Special Trustees of the
Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne.
CONTACT FOR INTERVIEWS: Dr Philip Preshaw Clinical
Lecturer, School of Dental Sciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Tel: + 44 (0) 191
222 8193. Email: P.M.Preshaw@newcastle.ac.uk
The statistics in this press release were obtained from the
Action on Smoking and Health UK (ASH) website http://www.ash.org.uk/