(iVillage Total Health) - Your gums are probably the last thing on your mind when you go to a nightclub or bar, but dentists want you to consider this fact: a recent study in rats found that exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke appeared to increase the risk of bone loss in people with gum disease.
In a study published in the April edition of the Journal of Periodontology, researchers in Brazil studied three groups of rats that had been induced with gum disease—inflammation and infection of the gums, tissues and bones surrounding the teeth. It is the most common cause of tooth loss, especially among older adults in the United States. Scientists wanted to determine how periodontitis, who the most severe form of gum disease, is affected by exposure to tobacco.
One group of rats was exposed to light brand cigarette smoke, meaning those containing lower levels of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, while a second group was exposed to non-light cigarettes containing high tar nicotine and carbon monoxide levels. A third group of rats, the control group, was not exposed to cigarette smoke. All groups were studied for 30 days.
The results showed greater bone loss in the two groups of rats exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke than those not exposed, regardless of whether the cigarettes were high or low nicotine brands.
"This study is unique in that it evaluated the impact of secondhand smoke on periodontitis," author Dr. Getulio da R. Nogueira-Filho, said in a press release.
In severe cases of periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth, forming periodontal pockets that trap bacteria and food particles. Over time, periodontitis can lead to the destruction of gum and bone tissue, which may eventually cause the teeth supported by that periodontal tissue to fall out or have to be pulled.
"This study really drives home the fact that even if you don't smoke, the effects of secondhand smoke can be devastating," Dr. Preston D. Miller, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, said in a press release. "Part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle should include avoiding smoke-filled places such as nightclubs, bars and even some restaurants. The academy applauds the cities that are taking steps to make their hospitality industries smoke free so all patrons can enjoy not only a good time but also good overall health."
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