More smokers avoid dentist office
It is well known that people who smoke cigarettes are at higher risk for gum disease, tooth loss and cancers of the mouth.
It is well known that people who smoke cigarettes are at higher risk for gum disease, tooth loss and cancers of the mouth. So it would be natural to think that smokers make a point of getting regular checkups from a dentist.
In fact, they are less likely to do so than nonsmokers, a new study finds. A survey of more than 15,000 Americans, reported in the current American Journal of Health Behavior, found that 33 percent of smokers said they went to the dentist at least once a year compared with 45 percent of nonsmokers.
The study, commissioned by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was led by Susan Drilea.
"Given the higher risk of oral diseases among smokers and the critical role played by dental care in preventing, diagnosing and treating oral diseases," the authors wrote, "finding that current smokers are less likely to visit a dentist than are nonsmokers identifies an opportunity for intervention."
Drilea said it was unclear why smokers went to the dentist less often. Part of it may be a lack of money or insurance, she said.
But she also suggested that the problem might reflect some smokers' attitude toward their health.
"My hunch is that it has to do with maybe some of the reasons they choose to smoke to begin with," Drilea said. "It has to do with health consciousness and health-seeking behaviors."
The results of the study suggest that health advocates who reach out to smokers should also be encouraging them to improve their dental care, the researchers said.