Secondhand Smoking & Children’s Oral Health

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Smoking kills.

In the United States, over 480,000 deaths each year were attributed to cigarette smoking. It caused more deaths annually than the combined numbers of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug years, alcohol use, firearm-related incidents, and motor vehicle injuries.

The number of US citizens who died prematurely from cigarette smoking is more than ten times than the number of deaths in all the wars the country has fought, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Smoking is also blamed for 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths. More women died from it than from breast cancer. Also, 80 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were due to it. Over the last 50 years, a higher risk of dying from cigarette smoking has been observed in the country.

Smoking kills even nonsmokers.

However, despite saying no to smoking, nonsmokers can potentially be afflicted with the same health issues as active smokers due to secondhand smoking.

According to CDC, approximately 2.5 million nonsmokers have died since 1964 due to secondhand smoking. Secondhand smoke is derived from burning tobacco products and smoke which has been exhaled or breathed out by a smoker.

CDC added that even a brief exposure to smoke could be harmful to health. Tobacco smoke comprises about 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are lethal and about 70 are cancer-causing.

Also referred as passive smoking, secondhand smoking has been linked to life threatening conditions among all age groups. Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, lung cancer and stroke among nonsmoking adults.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke can suffer:

  • ear infections
  • severe asthma
  • respiratory symptoms like coughing, respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia
  • at more risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.

Aside from the health issues on children mentioned above, secondhand smoke can also lead to oral health problems. Research has found that the exposure of children to secondhand smoke slows the development of their oral health. It also heightens the risk of tooth decay development.

According to a study spearheaded by Dr. Andrew Aligne of the University of Rochester, the rate of children with cavities doubles in a household where exposure to smoking is observed. The conclusion was derived from an assessment of almost 4,000 children ages four to 11 and a measure of the cotinine level in their blood. Continine is an alkaloid found in tobacco and the predominant metabolite of nicotine, the main stimulatory compound found in cigarettes. When inhaled, nicotine is converted to cotinine.

The findings revealed that out of the 4,000 children, 47 percent had cavities in their baby teeth and 26 percent had it in their permanent teeth.

However, the British Dental Association has raised the need to conduct further research on the correlation of secondhand smoking and tooth caries before establishing a definitive link between the two.

Although practicing good oral hygiene is beneficial to oral health, the best way to wholly protect people especially children against the threats of secondhand smoking is to quit smoking. CDC advises the elimination of tobacco use in all homes, work and public places.

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