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Smokers may be more prone to chronic gum disease, or periodontitis, because the bacteria responsible for the infection responds to cigarette smoke by changing its genetic structure and becoming more difficult to cure, according to new research.
A study appearing in Environmental Microbiology states that the gingivitis bacteria adapts its DNA and changes its membrane proteins in response to cigarette smoke. The changes affect how virulent the disease is, as well as how the immune system recognizes the bacteria.
"Our study shows, for the first time, that components in cigarette smoke alter key characteristics of a major bacterial pathogen which, subsequently, changes how our immune system reacts to it," said Dr David Scott of the University of Louisville. "It may turn out that we need to develop alternate treatment plans for smokers and non-smokers".
Gum disease is a serious threat to dental health; between 30 and 50 percent of the U.S. population suffer from it in some form. The ADA recommends proper attention to dental hygiene and routine dental care as preventative measures against the disease.
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