Young children who grow up in an environment where people smoke face an exaggerated risk of dental decay–but only in their baby teeth, a new study finds.
Earlier studies had demonstrated that environmental exposure to cigarette smoke can weaken the immune system and promote the growth of decay-causing bacteria.
Because the enamel on baby teeth is very thin, young children should be especially vulnerable to smoke's effects on teeth, reasoned pediatrician C. Andrew Aligne of Pediathink, a Rochester, N.Y.–based child-health research group.
He and his colleagues investigated that hunch by reviewing dental and health records of nearly 4,000 U.S. children between the ages of 4 and 11. All participated between 1988 and 1994 in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.