One More Reason to Quit Smoking: The Oral Microbiome

Times have certainly changed since the 1960s back when doctors would endorse cigarette brands on TV advertisements! Over the course of the past half-century, there has been a near-constant stream of new research that has shown us exactly how bad smoking is for the human body. From causing various forms of cancer to increasing the risk of chronic diseases to simply causing wrinkles--there is no denying that smoking is incredibly damaging. Despite this fact, over a billion people around the world still smoke. For this reason, new information continues to pour in. If you needed one more reason to get motivated to quit smoking, the New York University School of Medicine might have it for you: smoking alters the microbial makeup of the bacterial ecosystem in our mouths--and that’s bad news!

As you may already know, there are hundreds of species of bacteria living in the human digestive system, and those bacteria have a monumental effect on our overall health and wellbeing. Thanks to a plethora of new research regarding the digestive microbiome, public awareness of its importance has skyrocketed--thus contributing to modern health trends such as the pursuit of a diet rich in antioxidants and probiotics.

It is also known that an important microbial ecosystem also inhabits the mouth. Though this microbiome has yet to be studied as carefully as the digestive ecosystem, there is no doubt that it plays an important role in our health. In fact, researchers surmise that the changes provoked by smoking could be at least partially responsible for weakening the body’s defenses against cancer-causing chemicals.

There is good news too, however. The same study that revealed smoking’s effects on the oral microbiome also noted that, with time, these effects are reversible--as long as the smoker changes his or her habits and stops smoking! If you want more information on quitting, visit the American Cancer Society’s quit smoking guide.