Researchers have long known there is a connection between tobacco use and gum disease, as well as oral cancers.
What’s not well understood is the connection between secondhand smoke and the development of cavities in young children. A 2011 systemic review of 15 studies published between 1990 and 2010 found a “possible causal relationship” between secondhand smoke and cavities in children, but reported the evidence was “insufficient” to fully make the claim.
In a 2014 critical summary of the review, a writer for the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), found that the 2011 systemic review “provides evidence that there is a causal relationship—not only a statistically significant association—between secondhand smoke and caries in primary teeth.” However, the JADA summary noted that although nearly 100,000 people were included in the review, researchers studied different aspects of secondhand smoke and children. Furthermore, many studies “did not adjust for factors associated with caries (cavities) risk such as sugar intake, oral hygiene practice and use of fluoride.”
The bottom line? More studies are needed to determine if there is a true link between secondhand smoke and cavities in children. Even though further review is needed, tobacco use and secondhand smoke are severe health risks, so it’s best to avoid smoking, especially when children are around.