Smokers Suffer Worse Dental Health, but See their Dentist Less Often than Non-Smokers

A new government report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has highlighted the fact that although people who smoke have more problems with their teeth than non-smokers, they are actually less likely to visit their dentist.

These findings are based on a CDC survey taken in 2008. The survey involved more than 16,000 adult participants between the ages of 18 and 64.

The survey results indicated that over one third of smokers admitted to having 3 or more dental problems, which was more than twice the incidence of dental problems among individuals who have never smoked. The dental problems included jaw pain, toothache, infections, and stained teeth.

In addition to this, 20 percent of the smokers had not seen a dentist in at least 5 years. Among non-smokers and former smokers who had quit, only 10 percent of respondents had avoided seeing a dentist for that long.

The researchers noted that smokers appear to be aware that they are having problems with their teeth, but are not seeking a dentist to provide necessary dental care. 50 percent of the smokers surveyed, indicated that affordability was an issue, and that they were unable to pay for the cost of seeing a dentist. This reason was given much more frequently by smokers than by non-smokers who did not regularly see a dentist.

A previous CDC report has indicated that smoking rates are higher among low income populations, and that approximately 30 percent of Americans with incomes below the poverty level are smokers. This compares with less than 19 percent of Americans with higher incomes admitting to being smokers.

Smoking impacts dental health in a number of ways including weakening the body’s ability to fight off infections in the mouth. Smoking also places a person at risk for oral cancers.