Smokeless Tobacco: The Facts & The Effects on Your Teeth and Gums

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Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

The Facts & The Effects of Tobacco

Most people are aware that smoking cigarettes can cause profound damage to your health and appearance, but few know that the effect that smokeless tobacco has on teeth and gums can be just as devastating. Smokeless tobacco, also known as chewing tobacco or snuff, can have just as many detrimental effects to your dental health as cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. From gum disease and discoloration, to throat, lung and oral cancer, using tobacco has many negative and harmful health consequences.

what chewing tobacco does to your teeth

Smokeless Tobacco Facts

Chewing tobacco has many nicknames, but regardless of what you call it, prolonged use can cause serious and permanent damage to your teeth, gums, and overall health. In the short-term, chewing tobacco users have noticed things like bad breath, yellowed teeth, receding gums, and more. The long-term implications are bleaker, with the potential of tooth loss, increased risk of heart disease, and even cancer of the mouth, tongue, and more. Although there are many short and long-term effects of chewing tobacco, quitting now can greatly reduce these risks.

Just like other tobacco or cigarette products, smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals. Although traditional cigarettes also have these chemicals, the risks for cancer or other harmful diseases have been researched to be higher in smokeless tobacco products as the substance sits for extended periods of time in your mouth rather than being burnt and inhaled.

Health Effects of Smokeless Tobacco

Just because smokeless tobacco is chewed and not inhaled as other forms such as cigarettes does not mean that they are less harmful. Smokeless tobacco users can have a multitude of dental health issues when using these products habitually or even sporadically. By visiting your dentist, they can help identify these oral signs and prescribe a treatment solution.

Bad breath

Bad breath is often a side effect of habitual tobacco use. Chewing tobacco is known for drying out your mouth and irritating your gums, all conductors for bad breath. Halitosis, or chronic bad breath, can be developed as a result of usage caused by debris in your mouth and poor oral hygiene.

Teeth discoloration and decay

Many types of smokeless tobacco contain sugar as an ingredient to enhance the flavor. When the substances sit pressed up against the cheek and tooth, it can easily cause tooth decay and discoloration as the substance seeps into and rubs against the teeth. Smokeless tobacco also usually contains some type of sand or grit, which can wear down the teeth, furthering tooth sensitivity and erosion.

Decreased sense of taste and smell

 Chewing tobacco can also lessen a person’s sense of taste and ability to smell. Initially, your senses will be impaired, but over time long-term damage can result. This happens as the tobacco diminishes your sensitivity to odor quality, damaging your sense of smell and even resulting in the loss of your taste buds. 

Higher risk of developing cavities

Users of smokeless tobacco suffer from a higher risk of cavities, especially cavities at the gum line. The longer tobacco is used, the higher the risk. In cases of smokeless tobacco, the incidents of developing cavities are higher than any other type of tobacco use due to the high sugar content being held directly at the tooth for long stretches of time. According to one study, “regular non-smoke tobacco users have 4 times the risk of cavities at the tooth root”.

Development of gum or periodontal disease

Due to the constant nature of the gritty substance being placed in close proximity to the teeth, irritation to the gums often results. When the gums are irritated, it can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving the roots and surfaces exposed and sensitive to hot or cold temperatures and touch. This constant irritation to the gums can result in weakness and eventually periodontal disease. 

Higher chance of developing cancer in the mouth, lips, throat or pancreas

Dip, chew, snuff and other types of smokeless tobacco contain many cancer-causing chemicals and have been known to increase the risk of oral cancer. These harmful compounds are found in all smokeless tobacco substances.

Warning Signs of Oral Health Issues

If you are a constant or habitual user of smokeless tobacco products, oral issues will begin to result. Bad breath, discolored patches on your teeth and gum irritation may be the first signs. Gums may turn white or red from irritation in areas and become sensitive to the touch. Tooth decay can easily follow, as your teeth begin to wear down without receiving the proper oral hygiene. In extreme cases, cancer can develop, usually beginning with a white, scaly patch or lesion on the inside of the mouth or lips.

If you are seeing any of these symptoms, or have white or red lesions in your mouth that do not heal, you need to consult your dentist right away. Dentists can diagnose and treat the mouth before the case develops any further into oral cancer.

what-does-dip-teeth

Save Your Teeth Today

Constant usage of smokeless tobacco and a tobacco dependence can be classified as nicotine addiction disorder. These often affect all areas of life, including physical, sensory, psychological and behavioral areas. A dentist can help you kick the addiction, and prescribe nicotine replacement therapies or other solutions in the duration of treatment.  

Chewing tobacco, or dip, especially over a long period of time, has the potential to cause lasting damage to your teeth and general oral health, including tooth decay, gum disease and more.  But, in some cases, it’s not too late to repair or reduce the harm that smokeless tobacco has caused. Book a visit with Friendly Dentistry today at to get your dental health back on track.

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