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Science in the News

Secondhand Smoke May Contribute to Dental Caries Risk in Infants

October 23, 2015

Consistent with previous reports,1 infants exposed to secondhand smoke at 4-months-old seem more likely to develop caries by 3 years of age, according to a study in the BMJ.2 However, the study failed to find an impact of maternal smoking during pregnancy on caries development in deciduous teeth.

The retrospective cohort study was based on a review of records maintained as part of the municipal health check-ups conducted in Kobe, Japan.  The health check-up program involved all women of child-bearing years and children from pregnancy to 3 years of age who resided in the city.  Among a number of other factors, maternal smoking during and after pregnancy as well as smoking in the household was documented as part of the program.  The program also included oral assessments of the children at 18 months and 3 years of age.

Factors such as economic and other disparities among the population studied were not included in the model.  Thus, these findings simply add to the available information suggesting that there may be an association between secondhand smoke exposure and caries development.  Nonetheless, the presence of a new child in the family and insight from this study may provide an opportunity for dentists to have a discussion about the potential adverse effects linked to secondhand smoke.


  1. Hanioka T, Ojima M, Tanaka K, Yamamoto M. Does secondhand smoke affect the development of dental caries in children? A systematic review. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2011;8:1503-19.
  2. Tanaka S, Shinzawa M, Tokumasu H, et al. Secondhand smoke and incidence of dental caries in deciduous teeth among children in Japan: population-based retrospective cohort study. BMJ 2015;351:h5397

Prepared by: Center for Science Information, ADA Science Institute
Last Updated: October 23, 2015

About Science in the News

Science in the News is a service by the American Dental Association (ADA) to its members to present current information about science topics in the news. The ADA is a professional association of dentists committed to the public's oral health, ethics, science and professional advancement; leading a unified profession through initiatives in advocacy, education, research and the development of standards. As a science-based organization, the ADA's evaluation of the scientific evidence may change as more information becomes available. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.