The U.S. Surgeon General recently released a report that significantly expands the list of illnesses “causally associated” with active smoking to include orofacial clefts in infants, the acting Surgeon General, Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., said in a preface.

“The evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between maternal smoking in early pregnancy and orofacial clefts,” the report said.

The report came on the “50th anniversary review of tobacco science since Dr. Luther Terry’s landmark report on smoking and health updates evidence on the implications for oral health from tobacco use and the expanding use of multiple products or the replacement of conventional combustible cigarettes with other nicotine delivery systems,” reported the American Dental Association.

The dental disease chapter in the 2014 report offers these conclusions and implications based on recent research reported in the scientific literature:

• The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between active cigarette smoking and dental caries.

• The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between exposure to tobacco smoke and dental caries in children.

• In developed nations, smoking is strongly associated with sociodemographic characteristics and a wide range of health behaviors that also are strongly associated with elevated risk for caries. Given the public health importance of dental caries, further research on smoking is needed with careful attention to confounding.

• The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between cigarette smoking and failure of dental implants.

• The existing evidence suggests that smoking may compromise the prognosis for osseointegrated dental implants. Thus, an intervention to discontinue tobacco use should be part of the treatment plan for persons who are considering a dental implant.
The report also examines evidence on the health consequences of nicotine exposure.

“The possibility of increasing chronic nicotine exposure in the population from various nicotine-containing products for the long-term merits further research,” the report said. “Cancer, cardiovascular and neurocognitive outcomes are of concern. The evidence is already sufficient to provide appropriately cautious messages to pregnant women and women of reproductive age as well as adolescents about the use of nicotine-containing products such as smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes, and newer forms of nicotine-containing products, as alternatives to smoking.”

Decreasing smoking rates is an important form of preventative care. Preventive care is important in all aspects of health and wellness and that is true with oral healthcare. Dental assistants help administer various dental procedures and also assist a dentist, but some of their most important work comes in helping patients understand just what steps they can take in order to prevent future dental problems, and that can include talking about the risks associated with smoking and tobacco use.

Visits to emergency room for dental related issues have increased dramatically over the past decade and it has put an increased strain on the healthcare industry, as it is more expensive to provide care in an emergency room setting than in a dentist office before an issue becomes a major dental problem. Many of these emergency room visits are preventable through improved dental care at home.

As previously reported on this site, dental-related ER visits “cost the healthcare system anywhere from $867 million to $2.1 billion to treat dental conditions in hospital emergency rooms in 2010, according to HPRC. Previous studies have shown that patients who take their dental issues to the emergency room are more likely to be young or middle-aged adults and more likely to have Medicaid or no health insurance, HPRC says. In previous research briefs, HPRC has reported that the percent of adults between the ages of 19 and 49 with private dental benefits declined from 2000-2010.”

Because the healthcare industry is pushing more Americans to seek preventative oral care, the need for dental assistants is growing. Dental assistants help a dentist during a dental procedure or checkup in a variety of settings, ranging from dentist offices to mobile dental clinics.

The dental assistant field is expected to explode with growth in the coming years as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the dental assistant field will grow by 31 percent between 2010 and 2020. That’s great news for those jobseekers with professional training from a respected school like Milwaukee Career College.