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Secondhand Smoke and Its Harmful Effect on Children’s Teeth

A new study that showed evidence that infants exposed to secondhand smoke seem more like to develop tooth decay.

THE LEVANT NEWS — Duba: Dr. Michael’s Dental Clinic’s Clinical Head Dr. Marwan Al-Obeidi and Specialist Pediatric Dentist Dr. Chantal Kengo, discuss the new study published in the BMJ and its relevance to their practice.

The study concludes that exposure to tobacco smoke at 4 months of age was associated with an approximately twofold increased risk of tooth decay (aka caries or cavities) in deciduous or milk teeth. The risk of tooth decay was also increased by 1.5-fold among those exposed to smoking in the household. The effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy was not statistically significant.

“Less than 5% of parents who attend my clinic as patients are smokers,” said Dr. Marwan. “We are seeing a general trend of reduction in the number of smokers in the west, but unfortunately it remains a large scale problem in the Middle East and in developing and emerging countries as a whole. Nonetheless, most people tend to stop smoking once they discover they become parents as their sense of responsibility heightens and it is for this reason that I have a very low percentage of patients who are parents and smoke.”

“Tooth decay is an infectious disease caused by a lot of factors including insufficient oral hygiene habits, a diet rich in sugars, the frequency of sugary food intake and poor quality of teeth and saliva (genes),” Dr. Chantal said. “It is not rare to find young children (those under 5 years old) who have cavities. Forty per cent of young children have cavities. This early form of cavities is a severe disease called Early Childhood Caries.”

“As oral health providers, we look further into other important things when addressing the problem of tooth decay in children. We have to take into consideration the parents’ education, socio-economic level of the family, their access to oral health and the beliefs they live with. Some parents strongly believe that sweets are a part of childhood. There are a lot of parents in the UAE who smoke cigarettes and shishas (hookah), I think these findings will be useful in educating parents about their children’s oral health.”

Smoking is one of the leading causes of oral cancer and Dr. Marwan said that oral cancer screening is a very important part of every dental checkup. “As part of my routine questions, I always ask patients about their alcohol consumption and their tobacco intake. (If they are smokers) I advise them on the effects of smoking not only on their general health, with a particular emphasis on the detrimental qualities of smoking on oral health, but I also advise them on the effects of secondhand smoking for the people around them.”

“This recent study carried out in Japan is certainly an eye opener with regards to yet another harmful effect of smoking,” said Dr. Marwan. “We are constantly informing our patients and educating them about the several harmful effects that smoking causes, but for smoking to be proven to cause dental caries in children who inhale secondhand smoke is certainly a revelation in the dental world which I am certain will cause shockwaves and help the health professionals in combating smoking with yet another harmful effect that they can advise their patients about.”

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