Periodontal Disease and Secondhand Smoke

We have known for many years that smokers have a higher risk of gum disease.  In 2004 the US Surgeon General stated that scientific evidence was sufficient to conclude that there was a causal relationship between tobacco and periodontal disease.  But recently, researchers at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill concluded that even exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke increased risk for the disease.  Exposure to secondhand smoke for several hours a day can double the risk of severe periodontal disease.  People exposed to secondhand smoke for 25 hours or less every week had a 29% increased chance of the disease and for people who were exposed to more than 26 hours the odds were two times higher.  The study is in the American Journal of Public Health and can be found at

http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2010.300069.

The Great American Smokeout which encourages people to stop smoking for 24 hours will take place this year on November 18.  The goal is that the decision to stop smoking will last much longer than the one day.  This annual event is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Quitting smoking is not easy because tobacco contains nicotine which is addictive.  As Mark Twain once said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.”  I have made it a goal in my Long Island dental office to help my patients who smoke to break the habit once and for all.

Smokers are at risk for oral cancer and periodontal disease.   Cigarette smoking has also been linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory disease.

Sadly a close friend and neighbor of mine passed away suddenly last week of pneumonia. She was a life-long smoker and it turns out that the pneumonia was a by-product of undiagnosed lung cancer. She had no symptoms – yet died of the disease. Smoking is bad for your teeth and gums – and it can kill you. There may be no warning.

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