VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Passive smoking, implicated in middle-ear infections and asthma in children, also may be a major cause of periodontal disease in adult non-smokers, the first study to look at this relationship has shown.
Research conducted by oral biologists in the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine has shown that passive exposure to tobacco smoke may increase the risk of developing gum detachment and bleeding gums in adults by up to 70 percent.
Results of the study will be presented here tomorrow (March 13, 1999) at the combined meeting of the American Association of Dental Research and International Association of Dental Research.
"There is overwhelming evidence linking active smoking to periodontal disease, but our study shows exposure to environmental smoke also is important," said Sara G. Grossi, D.D.S., UB senior research scientist and chief researcher on the study. "It is not just the direct effect of nicotine that is harmful." (See editor's note at end of news release for electronic links to previous UB research reports on smoking and periodontal disease.)
To investigate the relationship between passive smoking and periodontal disease, Grossi and colleagues analyzed data from 13,798 participants in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a population-based survey conducted in the U.S. from 1988-94. All participants were between the ages of 20 and 90 and had at least six natural teeth.
Passive smoking was based on exposure in the home only. A gum detachment of 1.5 millimeters or more per person and bleeding at 20 percent or more gum sites were used to characterize severe periodontal disease.
Analysis of the data showed that persons exposed to passive smoking were at significantly increased risk of having more severe periodontal disease than those who were not exposed, after adjusting for age, gender, race, education, income and diabetes mellitus, important known risk factors of gum disease.
The risk of severe attachment loss increased 1 1/2-2 fold, while the risk of severe gingival gum bleeding increased 1 1/2-2 1/2 fold in persons exposed to household smoke. Passive smoking also was a risk factor for tooth loss, results showed.
Grossi said longitudinal studies are needed to determine the relationship over time between passive-smoking exposure and periodontal disease.
Other researchers on the study, supported by a grant from the U.S. Public Health Service, were Alex W. Ho, UB research associate/biostatistician, and Robert J. Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of the UB Department of Oral Biology.
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