Many people believe that the use of smokeless tobacco is much safer for your dental health than smoking cigarettes or smoking marijuana. It is believed that since there is no smoke being inhaled, it will not harm you. The truth is, smokeless tobacco is just as addictive and is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes.
People who use smokeless tobacco place the ground tobacco between their cheek and gum and allow the tobacco juice to absorb into their system. The tobacco may be loose or in a mesh pouch. Either way it is used, the tobacco is in direct contact with your soft tissue for extended periods of time. This can lead to many dangerous oral disorders and diseases.
The nicotine is directly absorbed into the soft tissues of your mouth, giving the user the nicotine rush that others get through smoking. Unlike cigarettes, however, most people who use smokeless tobacco keep it in their mouth for thirty minutes or more at a time. This is three times as long as the normal cigarette takes to smoke, giving the user an extended period of exposure to the products.
The Effects On Dental Health
People who routinely use smokeless tobacco can expect to suffer from one or more of the following disorders:
- Stained Teeth. The direct contact between the smokeless tobacco and your teeth will leave them terribly stained. You can also expect to suffer from very bad breath because the tobacco juice stays between your teeth in between use and brushing
- Accelerated Tooth Decay. The continual exposure to tobacco juice will cause accelerated tooth decay. Sadly, the use of smokeless tobacco can cause your gums to become too weak to retain dental implants if necessary or heal quickly from dental procedures.
- Loss of Taste. Your taste buds will begin to stop working after extensive use of smokeless tobacco. Foods and tastes you once enjoyed may no longer provide you any pleasure.
- Gum Recession. Your gums may begin to recede because they are no longer healthy from exposure to the tobacco. This can cause you extensive amounts of pain, bleeding, and tooth loss. In many cases, surgery has to be performed to correct this problem,
Some of the more serious issues associated with smokeless tobacco include:
- Leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is a disorder of the mouth where white patches occur on the gums or inner cheeks. These are described as lesions and are very serious. Many doctors caution people who have this type of disorder that oral leukoplakia is often considered “premalignant.” This means that these areas are more prone to developing cancer in the future because they have been damaged.
- Gum Disease. Gum disease can be very painful, cause tooth loss, and is often very unsightly. Gums can become swollen and your speech can be altered. Tooth loss can change the appearance of your face and interrupt your ability to eat. Gum disease requires extensive treatment to cure.
- Cancer. There are several types of cancers that are associated with smokeless tobacco use. This includes cancers of the gums, the throat and esophagus, the voice box, and the tongue. Many of these types of cancer are deadly because of their location.
What You Can Do If You Use Smokeless Tobacco
If you currently use smokeless tobacco products, it would be in your best interest to stop now. There are several cessation programs available that can help you quit. During this time, you are greatly encouraged to see a dentist for a complete evaluation of your teeth and gums.
The good news is that dentists are often able to stop tooth deterioration, gum disease and warn you of impending cancers if you seek treatment immediately. They can begin the restoration of your smile while you are in the quitting process and help you try to prevent any further damage to your teeth and gums.