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Passive Cigarette Smoke May Cause Dental Cavities in Children - 2003-03-11


Cigarette smoking is known to cause dental problems in adults. Now a new study shows that breathing in passive smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, may cause more cavities in children. Carol Pearson has the story.

NATURAL SOUND, DENTIST PREPARING TO EXAMINE YOUNG BOY

DENTIST
"Let’s see that big smile of yours there."

This little boy won't feel like smiling if he's told he has a cavity. If he spends time around cigarette smoke, he's a lot more likely to have a cavity, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

ANDREW ALIGNE, PEDIATRICIAN/RESEARCHER
"Children with tobacco smoke exposure were almost twice as likely as other children to have dental cavities in their baby teeth."

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 3500 children. The children, ages 4 to11, not only had dental exams, they had their blood tested for the presence of cotinine.

ANDREW ALIGNE, PEDIATRICIAN/RESEARCHER
“Your body breaks down nicotine to excrete it, and one of the breakdown products is cotinine, and we can measure that, so it’s a very good measure of how much tobacco you've been exposed to."

NARRATOR They 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.

ANDREW ALIGNE, PEDIATRICIAN/RESEARCHER
"Poor kids are more likely to have cavities, but children who have high cotinine are more likely to have cavities whether they're poor or not.

NATURAL SOUND, WOMAN SMOKING CIGARETTE NEXT TO BABY

Why would second-hand smoke cause cavities? 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, another risk factor for cavities. Dr. Aligne says his study is one more reason to keep children away from second-hand smoke, and keep kids smiling.

NATURAL SOUND, DENTIST TALKING TO SMILING LITTLE GIRL IN DENTAL CHAIR

DENTIST
"You did wonderful."

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