How many teeth are in that cigarette pack?

Question:

If you start smoking at age 18 and smoke one pack a day, how many teeth are you likely to lose by the time you are 35 years old?

Answer:

Four to five teeth.

Men who smoke lose 2.9 teeth for every 10 years of smoking, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. For women, it's 1.5 teeth per decade.

Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth than non-smokers, according to the results of two separate 30-year studies at Tufts University in Boston that investigated the relationship between smoking and tooth loss among males and females.

In one study, male smokers lost an average of 2.9 teeth after 10 years of smoking one pack a day, while nonsmokers lost an average of 1.3 teeth after 10 years.

Another study at Tufts University, which looked at 583 healthy women aged 41 to 76, arrived at a similar conclusion: Female smokers who smoked one pack a day for 10 years were twice as likely to lose one or more teeth than nonsmokers. The study found that the risk of losing teeth decreases among women who quit smoking.

Why does smoking promote periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss? One theory is that tobacco may restrict the blood flow to the gum tissues, which would limit the nutrients necessary to the bone and periodontal support of the teeth. Another theory is that smoking causes a chain of events in the mouth that eventually leads to tooth loss. The chain starts with plaque build-up on teeth, which is linked to tartar build-up, which can cause gingivitis. From there, the smoker develops periodontal disease. The final result is tooth loss.

The chain can be broken by brushing and flossing regularly and by stopping the use of tobacco.

Last updated June 2016

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