Tooth decay is the most common chronic infectious disease of childhood in the U.S., affecting 42 percent of children ages 2 to 11. Untreated decay causes difficulty eating, sleeping and lost time from school for tens of thousands of children every year. Now, a new study from Kyoto University in Japan published in the British Medical Journal, discovered something that several U.S. studies have shown -- children who are exposed to smoke in their home are more likely to develop tooth decay at three years of age than those who lived in non-smoking households.

Worse yet, the more smoke the children were exposed to, the more decay they experienced. Children who lived in a home with a smoker were almost one and a half times more likely to have tooth decay, even though they tried not to smoke near the kids. When children lived with a smoker who directly exposed them to second hand smoke, they were twice as likely to have tooth decay as children from non-smoking households.

Studies of the effects of smoking on children do not meet the strictest criteria for clinical trials because they are all considered observational. Researchers cannot randomly assign children to live in smoky houses; they can only record what the parents do on their own. However, the connection is strong enough that the U.S. Surgeon General has declared that secondhand smoke is linked to an increased risk of tooth decay in children.

If you are a smoker, protect your children from pain and suffering by smoking outside of the home, or -- better yet - quitting as soon as possible. November is Tobacco Cessation Month, and the Department of Defense (DOD) has rallied a tremendous variety of resources to help you get started.

Find out more by visiting an Army Wellness Center near you, or check out internet resources on the Army Public Health Center Tobacco-Free Living website Army Public Health CenterTobacco Free Living

You can learn more about quit resources and your TRICARE benefit at the DoD Quit Tobacco website, UCanQuit2.org.