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Home > Dental Conditions > Oral Cancer > Smokeless Tobacco Is A Dangerous Habit
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Smokeless Tobacco: A Dangerous Habit

Smokeless tobacco can lead to dental problems.

Smokeless tobacco, including chewing tobacco (either shredded, or in plugs or twists) and snuff (finely ground processed tobacco) are not safe alternatives to cigarette smoking. Smokeless tobacco, often romanticized in old western movies and seen being used by baseball players, is a highly addictive form of tobacco. Smokeless tobacco can cause cancer, damage teeth and gums and have a negative social impact. In fact, homerun king Mark McGwire, whose father is a dentist, is an ardent spokesman against smokeless tobacco. McGwire has raised awareness about the dangerous habit, and is a positive role model for all athletes who are, or are considering, using smokeless tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco contains many chemicals and additives that cause addiction and cancer. One can of smokeless tobacco contains the same amount of addictive nicotine as 60 cigarettes. They also contain the carcinogens (cancer causing agents) n-nitosamines and formaldehyde, as well as the unsavory additives polonium 210, cadmium, cyanide, arsenic, benzene and lead. Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth and throat. Some of the early warning signs are: a sore that bleeds easily, but does not heal; a lump in the mouth or neck; soreness or swelling that does not go away; a white, or red and white, patch in the mouth that does not heal; and trouble chewing, swallowing or moving your tongue or jaw. Young people who start to use smokeless tobacco are 4-6 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users. Smokeless tobacco users should visit the dentist at least three times a year because oral cancers caught early have a much higher cure rate.

Smokeless tobacco causes many dental problems as well. The grit and other irritants in the product cause the teeth to erode and the gums to recede. The jawbone under the gums can also be damaged and cause the teeth to become loose or fall out. Smokeless tobacco can permanently discolor the teeth, and its high sugar content increases tooth decay. If that isn't bad enough, smokeless tobacco can also decrease the ability to smell and taste food.

The social effects of smokeless tobacco use are also worth noting. The bad breath and cosmetically unappealing teeth, coupled with the constant spitting, can have a negative effect on your social or love life.

If you are a smokeless tobacco user, here are some tips to help you quit. Pick a date to quit and follow through. Ask friends and family members to give you support to kick the habit. Consider nicotine patches or gums. Try to step down the dosage by switching to a brand that has lower nicotine. Choose a substitute to smokeless tobacco such as gum, hard candy (preferably sugarless) or sunflower seeds. Always remember that you have the power to quit this dangerous habit and enjoy a healthier life.

Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.

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