Tooth loss risk higher in smokers: Study

Teeth loss due to smokingResearchers from the University of Birmingham have found that male smokers are 3.6 times more likely to experience tooth loss and female smokers increase their risk by 2.5 times.

The list of side effects and consequences associated with smoking is abundant, from impotency all the way to cancer. There is numerous evidence which links smoking to health consequences, and the latest research adds yet another reason for smokers to quit.


Tooth loss is a global problem affecting about 30 percent of seniors. In the United Kingdom alone 15 percent of seniors 65 to 75 years old, and 30 percent of seniors 75 and older experience tooth loss.

Lead author of the study Professor Thomas Dietrich said, “Most teeth are lost as a result of either caries (tooth decay) or chronic periodontitis (gum disease). We know that smoking is a strong risk factor for periodontitis, so that may go a long way towards explaining the higher rate of tooth loss in smokers.”

By now we already know that smoking affects oral health. It can mask symptoms associated with periodontitis which make the gums appear healthy in smokers but they in fact are not. Professor Dietrich added, “It’s really unfortunate that smoking can hide the effects of gum disease as people often don’t see the problem until it is quite far down the line. The good news is that quitting smoking can reduce the risk fairly quickly. Eventually, an ex-smoker would have the same risk for tooth loss as someone who had never smoked, although this can take more than ten years.”

Findings were based on 23,376 participants and were independent of other factors such as diabetes. The aim of the study was to reveal association between smoking, quitting smoking and tooth loss in different age groups.

What researchers found was that tooth loss is linked with smoking was higher in younger individuals as opposed to older ones. Furthermore, heavier smokers were more likely to lose their teeth compared to lighter smokers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also note that smoking is linked to gum disease. Symptoms of gum disease are redness or swelling of gums, tender or bleeding gums, painful chewing, loose teeth, sensitive teeth and gums which have pulled away from teeth. They suggest smoking weakens the body’s ability to fight-off infection, thus making it harder for the body to fight-off gum disease.

The CDC adds that smokers are twice as likely to experience gum disease; the more cigarettes a smoker has increases the risk for gum disease. Also, smokers who have smoked longer are at an increased risk for gum disease, and treatment may not be as effective in smokers as it would be in nonsmokers.

Aside from the many other health consequences which smoking can contribute to, this study just reveals another reason why it’s so important to quit smoking – no matter your age.


The latest findings were published in the Journal of Dental Research.


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.