Thirdhand Smoke Exposure and Child Dental Health

There are a lot of ways that tobacco exposure can impact the health of children. A recent study shows the negative impact of thirdhand smoke exposure on children’s dental health.

Anyone who has ever cared for a young child knows how often they need reminders to brush their teeth. But there is more to good dental health in children than just brushing.

In a recent study by Dr. Mahabee-Gittens and colleagues, they analyzed the connection between tobacco smoke exposure and dental health among children in the United States. The study found that tobacco smoke exposure can contribute to oral health complications. The authors used data from the National Survey on Children’s Health to compare cavities and tooth decay in three different tobacco smoke exposure groups: (1) not exposed (i.e., did not live with anyone who smoked); (2) exposed to both second- and thirdhand smoke (i.e., lived with someone who smoked inside the home), and (3) exposed to thirdhand smoke only (i.e., lived with someone who smoked outside the home—did not smoke inside).

The researchers found that children exposed to thirdhand smoke only and children exposed to both second- and thirdhand smoke were more likely to have poor current teeth condition than children who were not exposed to either second- and thirdhand smoke. After careful examination of the data, the researchers found that: Children exposed to second- and thirdhand smoke were more likely to have inadequate oral healthcare visits and more frequent dental issues than children not exposed to tobacco smoke. These findings are important to show the association of second- and thirdhand smoke exposure with child dental health issues.

In a post-publication interview, Dr. Mahabee-Gittens mentioned how easily a few-minute screening of child exposure to tobacco smoke could be implemented in dental practices. However, screening children for tobacco exposure is just the first step; the next step is to decrease or eliminate the child’s exposure all together. Additionally, she emphasized that adults who smoke need access to educational and practical resources to help with smoking cessation. We believe that screening and education should be part of every oral health care visit and access to smoking cessation is key. Smoking cessation support is available at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

For full access to the research study, please contact the author.

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