Here’s yet another reason to quit smoking. According to a new study, tobacco use causes the body to turn against its own helpful bacteria, leaving smokers more vulnerable to disease.
Researchers at Ohio State University found the mouths of smokers are much more susceptible to invasion by harmful bacteria, even when they brush and floss their teeth fastidiously. This may explain why smokers suffer from higher rates of oral diseases -- especially gum disease -- than do nonsmokers, researchers said.
“The smoker’s mouth kicks out the good bacteria, and the pathogens are called in,” said lead researcher PurnimaKumar, assistant professor of periodontology at Ohio State. “So they’re allowed to proliferate much more quickly than they would in a non-smoking environment.”
The results suggest that dentists may have to offer more aggressive treatment for smokers and would have good reason to suggest quitting smoking, Kumar said.
To reach their conclusions, Kumar’s team examined the mouths of 15 healthy nonsmokers and 15 smokers after a dental cleaning, and compared the results.
They found that for nonsmokers, beneficial bacteria returned quickly after a cleaning, providing a defense against pathogens. “By contrast,” said Kumar, “smokers start getting colonized by pathogens — bacteria that we know are harmful — within 24 hours.”
The study was published in the journal Infection and Immunity.