Dr. Jana Ikeda, DDS - Boulder Dentist | Cigarettes Change the Composition of your Oral Bacteria
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Cigarettes Change the Composition of your Oral Bacteria

23 Apr Cigarettes Change the Composition of your Oral Bacteria

By now, we’ve all heard about how dangerous cigarette smoking can be. Cigarettes are the number one cause of death from preventable diseases, are highly addictive, and can lead to multiple kinds of cancer. In 2014, the CDC estimated that 16.8% of Americans aged 18 years and over were cigarette smokers, or around 40 million adults.

Smoking or smoking-1026556_960_720chewing tobacco can also cause oral health problems  such as yellow or darkened teeth and tooth decay. Recent research has shed light onto exactly how smoking causes tooth decay, and it’s going to take much more than just brushing your teeth to fix…

Bad teeth, smoker

Just as cigarettes can alter the bacterial composition in one’s stomach and intestines, more and more research is coming out showing that they also severely affect the bacteria in your mouth. Just like an ecosystem, the oral microbiome is extremely fragile, it relies on a specific composition of bacteria to stay healthy. Typically, a healthy human’s mouth has around 600 different species of bacteria – this may sound like a lot, but actually we need these bacteria to help maintain proper levels of acidity, protect our, teeth, and breakdown food.

Researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, collected mouth wash samples from over 1,200 individuals to compare whether smoking, or a history of smoking, had an effect on their oral bacteria. What they found was that current smokers has a drastically different bacterial makeup than subjects who had quit smoking or had never smoked.

In smokers’ mouths the levels of 150 bacterial species were highly elevated and 70 others were distinctly lower than usual. Specifically, Proteobacteria, which are thought to play a part in breaking down the toxic chemicals introduced by smoking, were diminished to half the level of those participants who did not smoke or had quit. In contrast,  10% more species of Streptococcus were found in the mouths of smokers, compared with nonsmokers. Streptococcus Mutans is known to promote tooth decay, as it plays a main role in the buildup of plaque and cavities.

The good news is that, like many things caused by cigarette smoking, the solution is fairly simple (even if it’s not easy). The study suggests that after quitting smoking, the body begins to heal immediately. This is true for your mouth and oral bacteria as well.


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