The Surprising Thing That Can Boost Your Baby's Odds of Cavities

Researchers in Japan has discovered yet another reason to stub out your cigarettes: your baby's teeth.

Happy baby in orange hoodie
Photo: Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock

Unless you've been living under a very big rock for the last few decades, you know smoking is terrible for you. It basically wreaks havoc on your entire body, putting you at risk for everything from lung cancer to COPD to cardiovascular disease. But researchers in Japan has discovered yet another reason to stub out your cigarettes: your baby's teeth.

According to a new study, babies who breathe in secondhand smoke are at a 50 percent greater risk of developing tooth decay than infants who don't. The observational study involved nearly 77,000 children in Kobe, Japan, where someone smokes in 55 percent of homes with children. The kids were given routine health assessments at five different ages: 0, 4, 9, and 18 months, and 3 years. Meanwhile, their moms filled out surveys asking about eating habits, oral care, and secondhand smoke exposure during their pregnancy and through the first three years of their child's life.

Based on that data, scientists determined that babies who were exposed to secondhand smoke, or passive smoke, at 4 months of age were twice as likely to have decay, a filled-in cavity or a missing tooth by their third birthday.

Interestingly, the study also found that babies whose moms smoked during pregnancy showed no increased risk of dental issues.

Though the researchers emphasize that their study isn't proof that passive smoke causes tooth decay, they emphasize that there is still an important public health takeaway: "Although these findings cannot establish causality, they support extending public health and clinical interventions to reduce secondhand smoke," they wrote.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

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