Could Non-Smokers Be at Risk for Periodontitis?

Periodontitis has been linked to cigarette smoking for some time now, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. With nearly half of all adults in the United States suffering from periodontitis, it is clear that tobacco smoke has dangerous health effects on the human body, and in the oral region particularly. A link between periodontitis and second-hand smoke has been debated for years, but recent research has investigated the connection between periodontitis and serum cotinine in non-smokers throughout the nation. More specifically, this research project aims to examine environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and its ability to cause harm to non-smokers in the U.S.

Before we jump into the research results, let’s take a look at just how damaging the chronic gum infection, periodontitis, can be for the teeth:

  • Teeth tissue is inflamed
  • Connective tissue breaks down and the alveolar bone suffers irreversible harm
  • Can cause tooth loss
  • Increases the risk for stroke, heart attack, and other serious health issues

Tobacco use is one of the most common risk factors associated with periodontitis, is addition to things like substance abuse, gingivitis, poor oral health, diabetes, poor nutrition, and decreased immunity. Over the last few years, researchers have been trying to pinpoint a connection between second-hand smoke and periodontitis. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s dental researchers Aderonke A. Akinkugbe, recently presented a study entitled, “Environmental Tobacco Smoke is Associated With Periodontitis in U.S. Non-smokers”.

The results of the research concluded that non-smokers who were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), otherwise called “second-hand smoke”, were 1.45 times more likely to suffer moderate to severe periodontitis compared to non-smokers who were not exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). These results point to the vast dangers linked to tobacco smoke for both smokers and non-smokers alike.

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