Smoking has long been associated with tooth loss, but postmenopausal women, in particular, experience more tooth loss than their male counterparts.
"Regardless of having better oral health practices, such as brushing and flossing, and visiting the dentist more frequently, postmenopausal women in general tend to experience more tooth loss than men of the same age," says Xiaodan (pronounced Shee-ao-dan) Mai, a doctoral student in epidemiology in the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the School of Public Health and Health Professions. "We were interested in smoking as a variable that might be important."
While fewer adults lose their teeth now than in past decades, tooth loss is associated with poor health outcomes, including stroke, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
In the UB study, heavy smokers-defined as those who had at least 26 pack-years of smoking, or the equivalent of having smoked a pack a day for 26 years-were nearly twice as likely to report having experienced tooth loss overall and more than six times as likely to have experienced tooth loss due to periodontal disease, compared to those who never smoked.
Participants provided information to researchers using a detailed questionnaire covering smoking history. Each participant also underwent a comprehensive oral examination and reported to the dental examiners reasons for each tooth lost. In some cases, the patient's dental records also were reviewed.
"We found that heavy smokers had significantly higher odds of experiencing tooth loss due to periodontal disease than those who never smoked," explains Mai. "We also found that the more women smoked, the more likely they experienced tooth loss as a result of periodontal disease."
"Tooth loss due to periodontal disease is a prevalent condition among postmenopausal women that severely impacts their dietary intake, aesthetics, and overall quality of life," says Mai. "Women now have yet another, very tangible reason for quitting smoking."
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.