Tobacco & Oral Health

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Tobacco usage is widely known to be dangerous. The World Health Organization states that one third of the adult population in the world uses tobacco in some form, and half of those individuals will die prematurely as a result.

Cancer 

One of the risks associated with tobacco usage is cancer, but lung cancer isn’t the only type that smokers are more likely to develop. There is an increased risk of oral cancer as well. The American Cancer Society indicates that 90 percent of those with cancer of the mouth, tongue, lips, and throat use tobacco products. Increased cancer risk is not only experienced with cigarettes. Pipes and cigars pose a risk for cancer, even if you do not inhale.

Other Risks 

In addition to cancer, smoking leads to things like build-up of tartar and plaque, discoloration of the teeth, loss of bone in the jaw, increased risk of leukoplakia (white patches in the mouth), bad breath, and an increased risk of gum disease. Smoking also prevents the gum tissue cells from functioning normally and affects wound healing, so you are more susceptible to infections and can take longer to heal from things like extractions, oral surgery, or other dental procedures.

Smokeless Tobacco 

Some individuals have the misperception that tobacco products without smoke, like chewing tobacco, diminish the risks associated with smoking. Unfortunately, smokeless tobacco products still have chemicals that can increase the risk of oral cancer, and the sugar and grit added to the product is also bad for your teeth. Chewing tobacco can irritate gum tissue, causing the tissue to recede and then exposing roots, which can lead to decay and sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. What’s worse is that chewing tobacco typically has higher levels of nicotine, making it harder to quit.

Quitting Tobacco

Quitting tobacco use can reduce your risks for a host of oral health problems. In fact, 11 years after quitting, your risks of gum disease can be similar to those of a person who does not smoke.

If quitting cold turkey is not possible, try reducing the amount of tobacco you use to start. Talk to your doctor or dentist about ways you can manage cravings with patches, gum, or medications. You can also try smoking cessation classes or herbal remedies.