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Second-hand Smoking: A Risk Factor for Tooth Decay in Children

Posted In Talking Points - By The Grand Canyons on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016 With No Comments »

Girl With a CigaretteSmoking is bad for the oral health, but it can also cause dental problems in children subject to second-hand smoke.

In particular, the cloud of second-hand smoke may make children more susceptible to tooth decay and fillings — an astonishing result some researchers have recently found out. The experiment was about the link between early exposure to second-hand smoke and a greater number of cavities in early childhood.

Exposure May Lead to Tooth Decay

The researchers observed about 77,000 children born between 2004 and 2010. The children were examined after birth and after their 4th, 9th and 18th month, as well as at 3 years of age.

The researchers found out that children exposed to second-hand smoke at four months of age might be at risk for dental caries by age 3. In addition, even when the smokers choose not to smoke near their children, toddlers who live with them are 50% more likely to have cavities. Children exposed as early as four months old have twice the risk.

Interestingly, smoking during pregnancy has no significant effects on the child’s oral health. Many dentists in Surrey, says Dannythedentist.co.uk, however, still urge pregnant women to refrain from smoking and make regular visits to the dentist.

How It Happens

Second-hand smoke directly affects the teeth — and the microorganisms living in the teeth — in a number of ways. It results in inflammation of the oral membrane, a decrease in serum vitamin C levels, salivary gland dysfunction, and immune system dysfunction.

Children exposed to second-hand smoke also have an impaired salivary gland and higher levels of sialic acid, which then increases the risk for Streptococcus mutans development. Also known as S. mutans, the bacteria produce acids from sugar, which then lead to the formation of plaque and cavities.

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Therefore, while cavities come from a number of factors, including biological issues like disease and bacterial floral, environmental factors like the presence of fluoride in the drinking water, as well as heredity, and lifestyle, second-hand smoke may also be a problem for their oral health.