Ask the Dentist: 'Do I Have Higher Risk of Having to Have a Root Canal if I Smoke?'
If you’re looking for yet another good reason to quit smoking, recent research suggests it’s not just your lungs, skin, and heart you need to worry about. In a 28-year study of 811 male smokers and non-smokers, current and former smokers had nearly double the number of teeth requiring root canal treatment than those who never smoked. The men were between the ages of 21 and 81 and were examined every three years during the study. So, why the big difference between smokers and non-smokers? Can you avoid a similar fate if you’re a smoker yourself? And, how do women fare in this scenario?
Why scientists believe incidence rates are so high
The need for root canal treatment often arises when bacteria find their way to the tooth’s pulpal chamber and attack the pulp housed within. Cavities, dental procedures, and tooth fracture can increase the likelihood of this occurring. When a tooth experiences the distress of this nature, the body works to fight off the bacteria invasion occurring within the tooth. The effects of smoking, however, diminish the body’s ability to fight infection, leaving teeth in a fragile state that makes them more prone to decay. That, in turn, can lead to the need for future root canal treatment. Additionally, smoking causes increased bone loss, decreased vascular dysfunction and a depressed level of oxygen within the blood of smokers – all reasons scientists believe smokers experience an increased need for root canal treatment.
If I’m a smoker, is it guaranteed that I’ll need root canal treatment?
No. What the research suggests is the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop the need for root canal treatment. The longer you’ve abstained, the less likely you are to need one as well. Non-smokers are, of course, much better off in this scenario, so the best recourse is to avoid the habit if you haven’t started, and quit as soon as you can if you currently smoke. Of course, there are many other reasons to quit as well. Here are 97 reasons that might help you get there.
Are women better off?
Probably not. While it tends to be true that, on the whole, fewer women than men smoke (and begin later, and smoke less a day), the researchers believed they would see the same sort of results should a similar study be conducted with women.
For more information about this topic, you can read the full study at the National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine.