Smoking and Tooth Loss

A study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) by researchers at the University of Buffalo compares postmenopausal women who have smoked to postmenopausal women who never smoked.  They concluded that smokers are at a much higher risk of losing their teeth.  Women have better oral health care and visit the dentist more regularly then men, yet women have more tooth loss than men of the same age.  Heavy smokers (26 pack-years of smoking, meaning the equivalent of having smoked a pack a day for 26 years) were twice as likely to have lost teeth due to periodontal disease, than those who have never smoked.

The study suggests that cigarette smoke may exacerbate gum disease or that the chemicals found in smoke may favor plaque forming bacteria.  Nicotine also reduces bone density.

Anecdotal evidence in my office supports the connection between smoking and tooth loss.  When I sit down with a patient to review their medical and dental history, I always ask about their smoking history.  When they arrive “long of tooth,” with loose teeth and missing teeth, I usually find that smoking is part of their history.