Smoke & Child Cavities

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says kids who spend time around cigarette smoke are more likely to get cavities, even if they're not the ones smoking.

Dr. Andrew Aligne and researchers from the Center for Child Health Research of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and from the University of Rochester School of Medicine, reviewed federal health data on about 3,500 children. The children, ages 4 to 11, not only had dental exams, they had their blood tested for the presence of cotinine, which is a product of nicotine. The researchers found that children with high cotinine levels in their blood were more likely to have cavities than children with low cotinine levels. This was true no matter how often the child went to the dentist, and no matter what the family's income level, education level, or race.

Past studies show that nicotine increases the bacteria and plaque that cause cavities. Other research shows that second-hand smoke can weaken the immune system so the body has trouble fighting bacteria, and that exposure decreases vitamin c levels in children... Which is another risk factor for cavities. Researchers say the study is just one more reason to keep children away from second-hand smoke. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease.

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