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 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.