Does air pollution affect your teeth?

Feb 1, 2019

We are all well aware of pollution that has been slaying us for years now. Pollution used to be an essay question in school and if I am not wrong it is still. So we human beings studying pollution for decades have not managed to raise a single finger to do something about it, is what we can conclude by released statistical reports. Recently on the festive evening of Diwali, New Delhi was proclaimed as the most polluted city on earth. Health issues are given code red during this scenario. But how many of us are aware of pollution having adverse effects on the development of teeth, on the beautiful pearls we brush and clean every day.

Pollution by definition is introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that causes adverse change. IARC* has classified air pollution has human carcinogen.  Poor air quality is linked to premature death, cancer and long-term damage to respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Air pollution influences the development of oral clefts in animals. There are few epidemiologic data on the relation of prenatal air pollution exposure and the risk of oral clefts. New evidence suggests that exposure to outdoor air O3 during the first and second month of pregnancy may increase the risk of cleft lip/cleft palate. Similar levels of O3 are encountered globally by large numbers of pregnant women.*(1)

Particulate Matter (PM) consists of breathable particles to which several compounds, such as heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and some volatile compounds may adhere. Epidemiological studies have found a consistent association between exposure to airborne PM and incidence and mortality for cardiovascular disease as well as lung cancer with natural cause mortality*(2–9). Recently, diabetes and other chronic diseases have been associated with PM exposure, possibly through oxidative stress and inflammation*(10). The finest fractions of PM (PM2.5 and less) play a major role in causing chronic diseases because they are retained in the alveolar regions of the lungs and diffuse into the bloodstream, inducing inflammation, oxidative stress and blood coagulation *(11,12). Children are a high-risk group in terms of the health effects of air pollution. Some studies suggest that early exposure during childhood can play an important role in the development of chronic diseases in adulthood. A study conducted in children living in a town with high levels of air pollutants in a Western country, the conclusion drawn was a high level of MN** in buccal mucosa cells, confirming previous findings of a mutagenic effect of urban air pollution on human beings. Thus DNA damage in buccal mucosa cells of Pre-School children exposed to high levels of urban air pollutants was confirmed.*(13)

All this scary evidence gives us a brief idea of how health and oral health are getting affected and interlinked. Exposure to solvents and pesticides, fertilisers, engine exhaust, textile dust and leather dust also increase the risk of oral cancer. Another contributing factor to oral cancer is indoor air pollution with other significant inflammatory respiratory diseases and infections. Around 50% of people in developing countries rely on coal and biomass in the form of wood, dung and crop residues for domestic energy. These materials are typically burnt in simple stoves with incomplete combustion thereby exposing women and children to indoor air pollution on a daily basis.

In India, the increasing economic development and a rapidly growing population that has taken the country from 300 million people in 1947 to more than one billion people today is putting a strain on the environment, infrastructure and the country’s natural resources. The latest urban air quality database of 2014 released by WHO reconfirms that most Indian cities are becoming death traps because of very high air pollution levels. It’s estimated to be the cause of seven million premature deaths every year (4.3 million from ambient outdoor pollution, and 2.6 from households).*(14). In this scenario, we should be conscious of our health and try our best to lessen this pollution even if it is in a small way. Let’s observe this National Pollution Day coming on December 2nd by taking small steps in minimising pollution thereby taking better care of our health, our children and our future generations.

Air Quality Index on Nov 16, 2018 @ 4 PM

(Average of past 24 hours)


City Air Quality Index Value Prominent Pollutant Based on Number of Monitoring Stations
Delhi Poor 285 PM2.5 37
Mumbai Moderate 129 PM10 1
Chennai Satisfactory 54 CO 2
Kolkata Very Poor 308 PM2.5 2
Hyderabad Moderate 118 PM10, PM2.5 6
Thiruvananthapuram Satisfactory 78 PM10 1
Varanasi Very Poor 326 PM2.5 1


Possible Health Impacts

Good Minimal Impact
Satisfactory Minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people
Moderate Breathing discomfort to the people with lungs, asthma and heart diseases
Poor Breathing discomfort to most people on prolonged exposure
Very Poor Respiratory illness on prolonged exposure
Severe Affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases




*IARC : International Agency for Research on Cancer

** MN : Micronuclei ( MN frequency used as a biomarker of DNA damage)



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