Smoker’s mouth usually calls to mind yellow teeth and tobacco breath, but a new study says it also kills the healthy bacteria in your mouth, leaving you more vulnerable to pathogens and disease.
Researchers gave dental cleanings to 15 smokers and 15 non-smokers, then took saliva and plaque samples a few days later. After sequencing the DNA found in the samples, they found that the non-smokers had a stable community of “good” bacteria—benign strains that actually aid the immune system in preventing inflammation and infection. But the smokers had transient bacteria and higher inflammation, leaving them more vulnerable to infection from pathogens and bad bacteria.
Of course, oral health is just one of many concerns for smokers, but developing gum disease (or other illness) because of a cigarette habit is pretty unsexy. (Just look at the photo above.)