UB Studies Point to Smoking As Risk Factor In Gum Disease

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: March 10, 1994 This content is archived.


SEATTLE -- There's mounting evidence that smoking is a key risk factor in periodontal disease, a major cause of adult tooth loss, University at Buffalo dental researchers say.

Results of separate studies conducted by Joseph Zambon, D.D.S., Ph.D., and Robert J. Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., have found that smokers experienced less attachment of tooth to bone and more bone loss around teeth than non-smokers.

In periodontal disease, tooth loss is caused by unchecked infection from one or more bacteria that destroy underlying bone.

The results of the studies were presented today (March 10) during the general meeting of the International Association for Dental Research.

In a study of 1,426 adults ages 25-74, Zambon found that the loss of fiber attachment of tooth to bone was three times greater among current smokers -- 12.03 percent vs. 4.28 percent -- compared to non-smokers.

• A 120 percent increased risk of infection with bacteria that cause periodontal disease for every step in levels from light to heavy smoking.

• Current smokers had higher levels of the bacteria Actinomyces actinomycetemcomitans, Bacteriodes forsythus and Porphyromonas gingivalis -- all of which cause periodontal disease -- than non-smokers.

The study by Genco, UB chair of oral biology, of 1,361 adults ages 25-74 found that smoking increased bone loss around teeth, another factor implicating it as a major risk factor.

Genco reported that risk increased from 3.34 to 7.35 times, respectively, for light to heavy smokers.

In addition to Zambon and Genco, other members of the UB research team are Sara Grossi, D.D.S., senior research scientist; E.E. Machtei, D.M.D., visiting associate professor; Alex W. Ho, research support specialist; Robert Dunford, senior scientific programmer, and Ernest Hausmann, D.M.D., Ph.D. All are affiliated with the UB Department of Oral Biology.

The research was partially funded by grants from the U.S. Public Health Service.