Saturday, July 27, 2013

Smokeless Tobacco And Disease

The Effects of Smokeless Tobacco Products on Teeth and Gums

Despite multiple public health warnings many people continue to use tobacco products. This article is intended to focus primarily on smokeless tobacco and the harmful affects it has to teeth, gums, and overall dental health. Using tobacco in any form can harm your health, including your teeth and gums, in a number of ways: from tooth discoloration and gum disease to throat, lung and oral cancer and, ultimately, death.

Smokeless Tobacco

It is a sanitized term to describe any tobacco used as an oral tobacco product which is used by holding the tobacco in the mouth against the jaw and teeth. The product names usually are adverbs for the way the products are put into use such as chewing tobacco, snuff, dipping tobacco, and pouch tobacco.

What makes smokeless tobacco so harmful to the dental health of the user is that the tobacco sits directly in contact with the teeth and gums. This direct contact from smokeless tobacco products can cause the toxins to directly enter the blood stream of the user, making the addictive affect of smokeless tobacco even more severe than smoking. The amount of nicotine absorbed from smokeless tobacco is 3-4 times greater than that delivered by a cigarette, and while nicotine is absorbed more slowly from it, more nicotine per dose is absorbed and stays in the bloodstream longer.

Just like smoking, a user's body actually absorbs 28 cancer-causing substances including arsenic and formaldehyde. Oral cancer is one of the most difficult to treat. It spreads quickly and surgery is often seriously disfiguring. On average, only half of those with the disease will survive more than five years. Oral cancer is diagnosed at a rate of 30,000 new cases each year and 8,000 will die each year from oral cancer.

Other harmful affects of smokeless tobacco use include:
  • Mouth, tongue, and throat cancer
  • Cancer in the esophagus (the swallowing tube that goes from your mouth to your stomach)
  • Stomach cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Possible increase in risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke
  • Addiction to nicotine
  • Leukoplakia (white sores in the mouth that can become cancer)
  • Receding gums (gums slowly shrink from around the teeth)
  • Bone loss around the roots of the teeth
  • Abrasion (scratching and wearing down) of teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Stained and discolored teeth
  • Bad breath
It typically contains sand and grit, which can wear down teeth, causing tooth sensitivity and erosion. The most common sign of possible cancer in users is leukoplakia, a white, scaly patch or lesion inside the mouth or lips, common among many smokeless tobacco users. Red sores are also a warning sign of cancer. Signs of precancerous lesions remain undetectable. Dentists can diagnose and treat such cases before the condition develops into oral cancer. If a white or red sore appears and doesn't heal, see your dentist immediately.

Users without a doubt need to see their dentist more often than most people to make sure any problem is diagnosed early. Studies have found that 60 to 78 percent of daily users of spit tobacco have oral lesions. A dentist can detect these lesions with an oral examination and will be able to determine a course of treatment.

For more professional information about the advantages of long-term dental care go to or
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