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Smoking linked to poor oral health

February 20, 2012

By Stacie Crozier, ADA News staff

Atlanta—Adults who are current smokers are four times more likely as those who have never smoked to have poor oral health status and twice as likely to have had three or more oral health problems, according to a new report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics.

NCHS Data Brief No. 85, “Smoking and Oral Health in Dentate Adults Aged 18-64,” reports that current smokers not only have a poorer oral health status and more oral health problems than former smokers and those who have never smoked; they also are less likely to visit a dental health professional when experiencing a dental problem because they were unable to afford dental care.

The report highlights findings from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey, which examined differences among dentate current smokers, former smokers and never smokers ages 18 to 64 in terms of oral health status, number of oral health problems and the utilization of dental services.

Key findings from the report include:

  • current smokers (16 percent) were twice as likely as former smokers (8 percent) and four times as likely as never smokers (4 percent) to have poor oral health status;
  • current smokers (35 percent) were almost 1 1/2 times as likely as former smokers (24 percent) and more than two times as likely as never smokers (16 percent) to have had three or more oral health problems;
  • current smokers (19 percent) were about twice as likely as former smokers (9 percent) and never smokers (10 percent) to have not had a dental visit in more than five years or have never had one;
  • cost was the reason that most adults with an oral health problem did not see a dentist in the past six months; 56 percent of current smokers, 36 percent of former smokers and 35 percent of never smokers could not afford treatment or did not have insurance.

“The evidence for an association between tobacco use and oral diseases has been clearly shown in every Surgeon General’s report on tobacco since 1964,” said the report summary. “Tobacco use is a risk factor for oral cancers, periodontal diseases and dental caries, among other diseases. Oral health problems may be early warning signs of other medical problems such as diabetes, HIV, heart disease or stroke. Good oral health is integral to good general health.”

The complete report is posted online at and can also be downloaded as a PDF document.

Data Briefs are statistical publications that provide information about current public health topics in a straightforward format. Each report takes a complex data subject and summarizes it in text and graphics that provide readers with easily comprehensible information in a compact publication. The NCHS produces Data Briefs through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information and resources for smoking and tobacco cessation, visit (Smoking and Tobacco Cessation).