March 11, 2003 -- When a parent lights up a cigarette, that cloud of secondhand smoke may damage their children's teeth. Young children are likely to get more tooth decay and fillings when exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke.
A study of nearly 4,000 children across the country -- all between ages 4 and 11 -- shows that more than 25% had tooth decay or fillings in permanent teeth and almost 50% had the same in baby teeth. More than half had evidence of cotinine in their blood, an indicator of nicotine exposure.
In fact, children with the highest levels of cotinine were significantly more likely to have both decayed and filled teeth, reports study author C. Andrew Aligne, MD, MPH, a researcher with Pediathink in Rochester, N.Y.
The study appears in the March 12 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
His findings indicate a 27% higher risk of tooth decay and 14% higher risk of fillings for children exposed to secondhand smoke.
Children living in poverty -- especially those living in urban areas -- are already at higher risk for
tooth decay than other children. Urban children may also be exposed to more secondhand smoke, the researchers say.
Though the researchers say the effect of secondhand smoke on oral health should be confirmed in other studies, this study adds more evidence indicating that the effects of passive smoking are harmful.
SOURCE: The Journal of the American Medical Association, March 12, 2003.