Nonsmokers and Secondhand Gum Disease

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It’s no mystery. Use of tobacco products harms almost every part of the body: lungs, skin, throat, mouth, the delicate mucous membranes of the upper respiratory system. The nicotine in tobacco products, smoke-able and smokeless, is a potent vasorestrictor that contributes to cardiovascular disease and peripheral neuropathy. Both smokeless and smoke-able stain teeth, cause halitosis, periodontitis, and disrupt the pH of the mouth, creating a higher risk for cavities.

The message is clear: tobacco use is really bad for you!

But could it be bad for others, too? We all know about the respiratory dangers of secondhand smoke, but according to a new study, the dangers may include oral health problems related to secondhand smoke as well.

New numbers

While other health problems related to secondhand smoke have been well known for years, the connection between periodontitis and secondhand smoke has never been known. But now a team of researchers believe they’ve found a connection.

Researchers gave periodontal exams to over 3,000 participants who reported never having smoked and checked their serum levels of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine that is found in smokers or in people exposed to tobacco smoke.

A periodontal exam measures the space, called a “sulcus,” between gum tissue and the teeth using a special probe. Healthy teeth and gums should have a sulcus measuring 4mm or above. Anything larger than 5mm means that there is probably a gum disease process starting and the associated inflammation is pulling the gum tissue away from the tooth.

What were the findings?

As this article is clearly alluding to, the scientists did indeed find a correlation between the levels of cotinine found in a person and their degree of periodontal disease: the higher the cotinine, the higher the chance or the worse case of periodontal disease found.

What does this mean for us? Well, in the small sense it means avoid secondhand smoke. In a broader sense, it shows policy makers and scientists that the risks of tobacco use continue to grow in number, affecting more and more systems of the body. It may play a role in further limiting the exposure of non-smokers to tobacco smoke in public places.

What if you’re a smoker?

If you yourself are a smoker– don’t despair. As your Littleton, CO dentist of choice, our job is to help protect and sustain your oral health, and we want to help you make the health choices in your personal life that will set up your oral health for success.

Quitting tobacco doesn’t only make walking and exercise fun again, improve skin tone and smile, lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of cancer – quitting tobacco will help your mouth stay healthy.

So let us help you by providing resources and support during your quitting process. Quitting is hard to do, but the benefits are innumerable. Call us for an appointment today!


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