June 1, 2000 CHICAGO – May 30, 2000 – Smoking may be responsible for more than half of the cases of periodontal disease among adults in this country, according to a new study published in the Journal of Periodontology. The study found that current smokers are about four times more likely than people who have never smoked to have advanced periodontal disease. However, 11 years after quitting, former smokers' likelihood of having periodontal disease was not significantly different from those who had never smoked.
Researchers analyzed government health data on 13,650 people aged 18 and older who had their teeth. This is the first study to estimate the proportion of periodontal disease cases that can be attributed to cigarette smoking.
"Cigarette smoking may well be the major preventable risk factor for periodontal disease," said the study's lead researcher, Scott Tomar, D.M.D., Dr.P.H., of the Division of Oral Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "The good news is that quitting seems to gradually erase the harmful effects of tobacco use on periodontal health."
The study also found that there is a dose-response relationship between cigarettes smoked per day and the odds of periodontitis. "Smokers who smoked less than a half a pack per day were almost three times more likely than nonsmokers to have periodontitis. Those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day had almost six times the risk," explains Tomar.
A recent online survey of periodontists conducted by the AAP found that the vast majority of periodontists routinely (79 percent) or most of the time (14 percent) advise their patients to quit smoking.
"Everyday periodontists see the destruction smoking causes in the mouths of their patients," said Jack Caton, D.D.S., M.S., president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "I hope the staggering statistics from this study will compel even more dental care providers to get involved in tobacco cessation efforts."
Tobacco's negative effect on periodontal health is well documented. Smoking interferes with healing, making smokers more likely to not respond to treatment and to loose teeth. "Tobacco use reduces the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to gingival tissue," explains Robert Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., editor of the Journal of Periodontology. "Smoking impairs the body's defense mechanisms, making smokers more susceptible to an infection like periodontal disease."
In addition to being a major cause of tooth loss, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes, respiratory disease and premature babies.
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) has a section entitled The Mouth-Body Connection on its Web site at http://www.perio.org to educate people about tobacco's effects on periodontal health.
"We hope smokers will think about the fact that they are putting their teeth and their health at jeopardy," said Caton. "We encourage smokers who want to quit ask their health and dental care providers for help."
A referral to a periodontist and a free brochure entitled Tobacco & Gum Disease are available by calling 1-800-FLOSS-EM, or visiting the AAP's Web site at http://www.perio.org.
The AAP is a 7,000-member organization of dentists specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tissues surrounding the teeth and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.
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