One of the best ways to ensure that you’ll eventually need some form of cosmetic dentistry is to smoke. The reason is that smoking affects approximately 600 different species of bacteria in your mouth that are known as your oral microbiome.
A study conducted by NYU Langone Medical Center in the US and more specifically the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center took a comprehensive look into the effects of smoking on oral bacteria. The lead researcher on the study was Dr Jiyoung Ahn, PhD. According to Dr Ahn, their study is the most comprehensive study on oral bacteria and smoking to date.
The study used specific genetic testing to determine the makeup and actions of oral bacteria. This work was inspired by similar work in the gastrointestinal tract for disorders such as Crohn’s Disease. It is currently estimated that at least 75% of oral cancers are caused by smoking but it is not yet known whether the microbial changes caused by smoking contribute to these cancers.
The study included 1,024 subjects from current cancer risk studies in the US who provided mouthwash samples. All of the volunteers were aged 50 and older. 112 were active smokers, 571 were former smokers and 521 had never smoked. Their oral bacteria was subject to statistical analysis and genetic tests.
The main finding was that smokers had markedly different oral microbiomes than those who had never smoked or those who had quit smoking. The “magic number” for the oral microbiome returning to normal for those who had quit smoking was ten years.
More than 70 species showed sharp declines in growth while over 150 species showed growth that had increased significantly. For smokers, 4.6% of their total bacteria was proteobacteria. In non-smokers, proteobacteria comprised 11.7% of total bacteria. Proteobacteria are important in breaking down toxic chemicals in the mouth such as those introduced by smoking.
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