We all know that cigarette smoking has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes, respiratory disease and premature babies.  If that information isn’t enough to make you quit, consider this…”Smokers who smoked less than half a pack per day were almost three times more likely than non-smokers to have periodontitis. Those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day had almost six times the risk,” explains Scott Tomar, D.M.D., Dr.P.H. of the Division of Oral Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  And don’t think these statistics are specific only to cigarette smokers.  Cigar and pipe smokers also have a much higher prevalence of moderate to severe periodontitis, compared to former smokers and non-smokers. Not only that, smokers are also at a higher risk of alveolar bone loss than non-smokers.  Carcinogens in smoke interfere with healing, making smokers more likely to lose teeth and not respond to treatment.
     That may not look all that bad to you at first glance, but lets elaborate on that for a minute. The toxins from use of tobacco products are actually melting the jawbone away, elongating the tooth surface, restricting blood flow and creating an unstable environment. The teeth will become loose and will eventually be lost, even if there is no decay and the tooth itself is not diseased. Even if you live with a smoker, you are at risk from secondhand smoke endangering your oral health. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that subjects with periodontitis who were exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to develop bone loss, the number one cause of tooth loss.
     Most smokers are well aware of increased cancer risk being directly correlated to smoking, but studies show that 90% of people with cancer of the mouth and throat use tobacco. That number should be cause for alarm. 
     Smoking Marijuana (also known as Cannabis) can be just as detrimental. Cannabis smoke acts as a carcinogen and is associated with tooth decay, periodontal disease and pre-malignant lesions. Users are also prone to oral infections, possibly due to the drug’s immunosuppressive effects. 
      Just in case you are wondering if smokeless tobacco is a better option, the simple answer is no. Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products (for example, snuff and chewing tobacco) contain at least 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of oral cancer and cancer of the throat and esophagus. In fact, chewing tobacco contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes, making it harder to quit. One can of snuff delivers more nicotine than over 60 cigarettes. 

Smokeless tobacco can irritate your gum tissue, causing it to recede or pull away from your teeth. Once the gum tissue recedes, your teeth roots become exposed, creating an increased risk of tooth decay. Exposed roots are also more sensitive to hot and cold or other irritants, making eating and drinking uncomfortable.

     Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, quitting now can greatly reduce serious risks to your health. Studies show that eleven years after quitting, former smokers’ likelihood of having periodontal (gum) disease was not significantly different from people who never smoked. If you need help kicking the habit, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or dentist for tips and resources. 

The Scoop on Calcium

We’ve all been told for years that calcium is vital for bone health. It is common knowledge that older adults, particularly women over 50 should take calcium supplements to keep their aging bones strong and prevent osteoporosis related fractures. Until recently the main debate has been about which type of calcium supplements were best, whether the pills can be a cause of kidney stones, and what other supplements need to be taken in conjunction with the calcium. In a recent draft recommendation from the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force it was concluded that supplemental calcium and vitamin D don’t prevent fractures in post-menopausal women.

Here’s what you should know. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body and is found primarily in your bones and teeth. Bones and teeth are living, active tissue and they constantly absorb and release calcium and other minerals. Calcium is not only important for your bones and teeth to remain healthy and strong, but it has many other important functions such as regulating your heart beat and blood pressure, conducting nerve impulses, allowing your muscles to contract and helping your blood clot. If you do not take in enough calcium, your body will leach it from your teeth and bones, which can weaken them.
According to the September 2012 issue of the John’s Hopkins Wellness Letter, many researchers have been critical of the conclusions made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task force, saying they have misrepresented the research, or at least put too negative a spin on it. Calcium is vital to overall health and it is important to make sure you are getting enough in your diet. The most common recommendation for calcium intake ranges from 800-1200 mg daily, but much of that can come from a calcium rich diet. Foods such as dairy, soy, fish, broccoli and almonds are good natural sources of calcium. If your diet falls short of the daily recommended calcium intake, supplements can be beneficial, buy there is little added benefit from taking doses higher than 500 mg at a time. Since the body absorbs larger amounts less efficiently, it is best to spread your calcium intake throughout the day – which is another reason why food sources are preferable. High doses of calcium are known to increase the risk of certain types of kidney stones, in contrast the foods that are naturally rich in calcium seem to protect against kidney stones.
Bottom line… talk to your doctor about your calcium needs, chances are if you eat a good, balanced diet, you may be getting all the calcium you need.