Smokeless tobacco use in the United States continues to increase each year.
It may be smokeless, but it isn't harmless. Why should you care? Keep reading.
TOOTH ABRASION - Grit and sand in smokeless tobacco products
scratches teeth and wears away the hard surface or enamel. Premature loss of
tooth enamel can cause added sensitivity and may require corrective treatment.
INCREASED TOOTH DECAY - Sugar is added to smokeless tobacco
during the curing and processing to improve its taste. The bacteria found in
plaque, the colorless, sticky film that forms daily on teeth, use this sugar to
produce acid. The acid damages tooth enamel and leads to decay.
GUM RECESSION - Constant irritation to the spot in the mouth
where a small wad of chewing tobacco is placed can result in permanent damage to
periodontal tissue. It also can damage the supporting bone structure. The
injured gums pull away from the teeth, exposing root surfaces and leaving teeth
sensitive to temperature and especially vulnerable to decay. Erosion of critical
bone support leads to loosened teeth that can be permanently lost.
NICOTINE DEPENDENCE - Nicotine blood levels achieved by
smokeless tobacco use are similar to those from cigarette smoking. Nicotine is a
highly addictive substance that produces withdrawal symptoms when use is
discontinued. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels that are necessary to carry
oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This raises both heart rate and blood
pressure and increases the risk for heart disease. Additionally, athletic
performance and endurance levels are decreased by this reaction.
TOOTH DISCOLORATION AND BAD BREATH - Common traits of
long-term smokeless tobacco users are stained teeth and bad breath. Moreover,
the habit of continually spitting can be both unsightly and offensive.
UNHEALTHY EATING HABITS - Chewing tobacco lessens a person's
sense of taste and ability to smell. As a result, users tend to eat more salty
and sweet foods, both of which are harmful if consumed in excess.
ORAL CANCER - With the practice of "chewing" and "dipping,"
tobacco and its irritating juices are left in contact with gums, cheeks and/or
lips for prolonged periods of time. This can result in a pre-cancerous condition
called leukoplakia. Leukoplakia appears either as a smooth, white patch or as
leathery-looking wrinkled skin.
OTHER CANCERS - All forms of smokeless tobacco contain high
concentrations of cancer-causing agents. These substances subject users to
increased cancer risk not only of the oral cavity, but also the pharynx, larynx
DANGER SIGNS - If you use smokeless tobacco, or have in the
past, you should be on the lookout for some of these early signs of oral cancer:
- A sore that does not heal
- A lump or white patch
- A prolonged sore throat
- Difficulty in chewing
- Restricted movement of the tongue or jaws
- A feeling of something in the throat
Pain is rarely an early symptom. For this reason, all tobacco users need
regular dental check-ups.