This review evaluated evidence of the relationship between secondhand smoke (SHS) and dental caries in children in epidemiological studies. Relevant literature was searched and screened, and the methodological quality was assessed. The search yielded 42 citations. High-quality studies including one cohort format and 14 case-control format studies were selected. Early childhood caries was examined in 11 studies. The independent association of SHS was significant in 10 studies, and the strength was mostly weak to moderate. One study did not select SHS as a significant variable. Three studies reported decreases in the risk of previous exposure, and the association was not significant. Dose-response relationships were evident in five studies. Permanent teeth were examined in seven studies. Five studies reported significant associations, which were mostly weak. The risk of previous exposure remained similar to that of current exposure, and a dose-response relationship was not evident in one study. The overall evidence for the causal association in early childhood caries is possible regarding epidemiological studies, and the evidence of permanent teeth and the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy were insufficient. The results warrant further studies of deciduous teeth using a cohort format and basic studies regarding the underlying mechanism.
Keywords: causal assessment; dental caries; motivation of smoking cessation; parental smoking; perinatal smoking; secondhand smoke.