Smoking is known to cause a range of physical health problems, including cardiovascular and lung conditions. Moreover, it also negatively impacts our oral health.
There is a long-standing understanding that there is a link between oral health problems and cardiovascular conditions, which can be worsened by smoking .
Now, research into how smoking impacts a specific part of oral health has been conducted. A research team has looked at how oral bacteria – known as the bacterial community – is impacted by smoking .
This research looked in detail at the impact that oral bacteria can have. It is referred to as the bacterial community. Every human has such a community in their mouth.
The scientific name for the “bacterial community” is the microbiome – which refers to all of the microorganisms, like bacteria (both good and bad), that exist in the oral cavity.
There are trillions of microorganisms that live on and in humans. While the vast majority are found in the digestive tract, there are also a huge number of microorganisms found in the mouth.
The research was carried out by a team of researchers from the Eurac Research Institute. Their findings have been published in the Scientific Reports journal .
The researchers looked at two key questions. Firstly, they wanted to see what precisely happens to the bacterial community in the mouth when a person smokes. Secondly, what effect does quitting smoking have on the bacterial community ?
In order to find out the answers to the above questions, the research team analyzed saliva samples from more than 1,600 people . A saliva sample is capable of providing a huge amount of information in terms of bacteria.
The 1,600 participants were split into three groups – consisting of current smokers, former smokers, and those that had never smoked . This would allow the bacterial communities of these three groups to be compared.
To identify the make-up of the community, the research team used an analysis of the 16S rRNA gene – which is used by researchers across numerous studies as a way of identifying bacterial species .
This analysis resulted in some interesting findings. The main finding was that those who have never smoked had a very different bacterial community in their mouths compared to the other two groups . This was a much better community, with less of the dangerous types of bacteria.
Moreover, the research found that those who had smoked and those that do smoke, had more of the dangerous types of bacteria. This can be explained by how cigarette use mainly affects the bacteria that require oxygen – known as aerobic bacteria .
The researchers found that the more cigarettes that a person uses, the more that aerobic bacteria decreases. However, if they stop smoking, the aerobic bacteria starts to increase again .
Interestingly, the research showed that it takes approximately five years for those that have stopped smoking to reach a level of aerobic bacteria that is seen in those that have never smoked . This statistic underlines the problems that smoking can cause.
Therefore, the research clearly shows that those that have never smoked have a much better bacterial community compared to those that have smoked. Even those that have given up still have some residual effects.
What this means
The research shows the negative problems that smoking can cause. The physical health problems that smoking causes are well-known, but this research adds further evidence to the knowledge behind the link between smoking and poor oral health.
The research team explained why smoking impacts the bacteria in this way. They explained that when we eat, “healthy” bacteria like aerobic bacteria converts nitrate from the food into nitrite, which then turns into nitric oxide .
Nitric oxide plays an important role in several bodily functions. Therefore, when there isn’t enough – caused by a lack of healthy bacteria – problems can arise . For example, this can include gum problems, often resulting in gum disease.
The overriding finding is that for those that smoke, the change this causes to their bacterial community has the potential to increase the risk of several conditions developing.
1) This research underlines just how damaging smoking is. The fact that it took five years for those that quit smoking to see their bacteria levels go back to a regular level is deeply concerning. If you smoke, hopefully this article will inspire you to quit! It can help with many areas in your life, including oral health. There is plenty of support available – have a look online and see if you can quit!
2) Oral bacteria is an important topic, especially as it can be linked to oral health problems. With this in mind, it is important to attend regular dental check-ups, as a dentist can then take a look at your oral health in detail. If there are any problems, they can make some recommendations – this may involve bacteria-related suggestions. We recommend booking a check-up now!
What we offer at Taradale Dental
Taradale Dental is a Calgary dental clinic that provide its patients with a wide range of dental treatment options and advice aimed at improving their oral health.
We advise our patients to attend our Calgary-based dental clinic twice a year for a regular dental check-up. When problems are detected, we have many treatments available. For instance, these include cavity fillings and root canals. To try and prevent problems, it is important to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss regularly.
Here at Taradale Dental, we also have some cosmetic treatments available! These include dental implants, tooth whitening and Invisalign™! Many people find that these treatments have a positive impact on their appearance, confidence and self-esteem.
In addition, all of our services at our Calgary dental clinic Taradale Dental are in line with the Alberta Dental Fee Guide.
We would love you to visit our Taradale Dental clinic in Calgary! You can find out more about us by visiting our website https://taradaledental.ca.
 Batty, G. D., Jung, K. J., Mok, Y., Lee, S. J., Back, J. H., Lee, S., & Jee, S. H. (2023). Oral health and later coronary heart disease: Cohort study of one million people. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 25 (6): p598-605. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487318759112.
 Antonello, G., Blostein, F., Bhaumik, D., Davis, E., Gogele, M., ,Melotti, R., Pramstaller, P., Pattaro, C., Segata, N., Foxman, B., & Fuchsberger, C. (2023). Smoking and salivary microbiota: a cross-sectional analysis of an Italian alpine population. Scientific Reports. 13 (18904). DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-42474-7.