Second-hand smoke affects children’s oral health

By • Published: June 25th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Warning! Smoking may be harmful to your children’s teeth.

Thanks to dozens of U.S. surgeon generals, we all know that smoking may be harmful to your health. It causes cancer, heart disease and pregnancy complications, and is a major risk factor for periodontal disease. Periodontal disease itself is linked to other conditions such as increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The negative effects of smoking extend to non-smokers who inhale the cigarette exhaust that others puff into the air.

Now, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology takes the first look at the influence of passive smoking on the oral health of children.

Researchers compared children whose parents smoked with kids whose parents did not. The study findings revealed that smokers can indirectly harm the oral health of their children.

The researchers, based in Turkey, wanted to find out how much smoking residue can be found in children’s bodies. So they measured how much of the chemical cotinine [COA-tih-neen]… a major product of nicotine-processing in the body… was in the children’s saliva. Cotinine generally stays in the body longer than nicotine, and the level in one’s saliva correlates with that in the blood.

Children who had been exposed to parental smoking had greater levels of the substance in their saliva than did children whose parents were nonsmokers.

What’s more, youngsters who had higher saliva levels of cotinine also fared worse on a tooth-health physical examination used as a marker for the progression of gum disease.

So parents, next time you need motivation to stop smoking… think about your kids’ teeth. And give them something to smile about… your health, and theirs.