Smoking Clears the Road for Nasty Oral Infections

One of the reasons I’ve never dated a smoker is that I don’t want to get their mouths all that close to me on a regular basis. The smell is just awful, and it’s not all due to the tobacco being exhaled from the lungs. Part of it is the typical disgusting state of their oral hygiene. If you don’t believe that, then I suggest taking a good long look at the teeth of long-time smokers.

In fact, nearly 42% of periodontitis (irreversible bone loss disease in teeth under the gums due to gingivitis and plaque build up) is attributable to smoking tobacco. And now, Purnima Kumar of the Ohio State University is hot on the trail of discovering why.

For her recent study, Kumar professionally cleaned the teeth of 15 smokers and 15 non-smokers. A typical teeth cleaning takes out all of the bacteria – both the good and the bad. She then had the participants wear stents over a total six teeth in two separate regions while they brushed to allow new bacteria communities to really take hold. She sampled the growing biofilms after 1, 2, 4 and 7 days of undisturbed plaque formation, and ran the DNA of the samples.

As it turns out, it seems that smoking somehow disrupts the normal order of things. In a typical healthy mouth – as in a typical, healthy any part of the body – there are a range of microbial communities that are good, healthy and beneficial. They form a bit of symbiosis with our bodies, allowing it to function properly.

Unless you smoke.

In the smokers mouths, the healthy communities of bacteria were not able to grow and take hold. In their place, a range of pathogenic bacteria responsible for a range of oral diseases took up residence. The reasons behind this have yet to be teased out, but it does seem clear that smoking is a disaster for a healthy environment inside of your mouth.

In fact, the evidence is so convincing that Kumar has managed to talk two of her patients into quitting already, a tactic she encourages all dentists to take when working on the oral health of a patient.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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