TUESDAY, Feb. 7, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Adult smokers are twice as likely to develop oral health problems as those who have kicked the habit, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found.
Compared to people who never smoked, current smokers are four times more likely to develop oral conditions, such as mouth cancers, gum disease and cavities.
The CDC investigators also found that smokers between the ages of 18 and 64 are nearly 1.5 times as likely as former smokers and more than twice as likely as people who never smoked to have three or more oral health problems.
Although current smokers were more likely to acknowledge the importance of oral health issues, they were less likely than former or never smokers to visit a dentist for an existing problem, the findings showed. The researchers reported that people who smoke are about twice as likely to have not been to the dentist in more than five years or not at all.
The main reason smokers said they avoided the dentist, the CDC authors noted, was that they couldn't afford dental treatment. The research showed cost was the number one reason adults with an oral health problem did not visit the dentist within six months. More than half (56 percent) of current smokers either couldn't afford treatment or didn't have any insurance. The same was true for 36 percent of former smokers as well as 35 percent of people who never smoked.
The CDC report emphasized that research has long shown there is a link between tobacco use and oral disease. In addition, oral health problems could be a red flag for the development of many serious conditions, such as diabetes, HIV, heart disease or stroke, the authors noted.
The complete report, by Barbara Bloom and colleagues at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), is published in the February edition of the NCHS Data Brief.
The American Dental Association has more about smoking and oral health.