Newcastle researchers looking for smokers for study to track dental health across 600 years

Dental researchers are looking for people to take part in a study which explores 600 years of oral bacteria
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A team of Newcastle dental researchers are looking for smokers and vapers to participate in a study which compares 600 years of oral bacteria.

The study aims to increase understanding of how the number and type of bacteria in the mouth changes over time, particularly in people who use tobacco or nicotine. Participants will attend the National Institute for Health and Care Research Dental Clinical Research Facility (NIHR DCRF) at the Royal Victoria Infirmary for a single 60 - 90 minute visit.

Taking part involves the dental team collecting tartar (hardened dental plaque that can form on the tooth) from the surface of the tooth for analysis. Participants will also be invited to have cells swabbed from their cheek, so researchers can monitor the health of the cells and look for differences between groups in the study.

Dr Richard Holliday, director of the NIHR DCRF and senior lecturer at Newcastle University's School of Dental Sciences, is leading the study. He said: "We are inviting people to take part in this study to help us understand how bacteria living in the mouth differ from person to person, compared to our ancestors’ mouths.

"The overall aim is to produce nearly 600 years of data on oral bacteria as part of a collaboration with the University of Leicester. It could give us fascinating insights into how changes in human diet and behaviours have had a long-lasting impact on our mouths today.

"In particular, we want to see whether past tobacco users had different oral bacteria in comparison to people who lived before tobacco was available to see if this influences the prevalence of tooth decay, tooth loss and gum disease."

Teeth between 600 - 700 years old
Teeth between 600 - 700 years old -Credit:Anna Davies-Barrett, University of Leicester

As part of the study, a dental examination will be completed and a range of samples will be collected to understand bacterial composition. After samples are collected, participants will be offered an optional scale and polish.

Professor Nicholas Jakubovic, professor of oral microbiology at the School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University, said: "There is a clear connection between tobacco smoking and gum disease in the modern age.

"However, ancient populations did not have access to oral care products that are available today. This study will help us understand disease patterns across different lifetimes and will show how the bacteria in our mouths have changed over time."

Anyone who is interested in taking part n the study can email