Regular and heavy smokers have a significantly increased risk of tooth loss, warns a study.
Male smokers are up to 3.6 times more likely to lose their teeth than non-smokers, whereas female smokers have 2.5 times greater risk, the findings showed.
"Most teeth are lost as a result of either caries (tooth decay) or chronic periodontitis (gum disease). We know that smoking is a strong risk factor for periodontitis, so that may go a long way towards explaining the higher rate of tooth loss in smokers," said lead author Thomas Dietrich, professor at University of Birmingham in England.
Tooth loss remains a major public health problem worldwide. Nearly 30 percent of 65-74 year olds in the world are edentate (have lost all of their natural teeth), the study said.
Smoking can mask gum bleeding, a key symptom of periodontitis. As a result, the gums of a smoker can appear to be healthier than they actually are.
"It is really unfortunate that smoking can hide the effects of gum disease as people often don't see the problem until it is quite far down the line," Dietrich noted.
"The good news is that quitting smoking can reduce the risk fairly quickly. Eventually, an ex-smoker would have the same risk for tooth loss as someone who had never smoked, although this can take more than ten years," Dietrich pointed out.
The findings are based on data from 23,376 participants.
The study aimed to evaluate the associations between smoking, smoking cessation and tooth loss in three different age groups.
The association between smoking and tooth loss was stronger among younger people than in the older groups.
In addition, the results clearly demonstrated that the association was dose-dependent; heavy smokers had higher risk of losing their teeth than smokers who smoked fewer cigarettes.
The study was published in the Journal of Dental Research.