Smokeless Tobacco and Your Health

A study funded by the Texas Cancer Council estimates that 6.8 million Americans use snuff or chewing tobacco, and many believe that smokeless tobacco is safer than smoking cigarettes.  It’s not.  Smokeless tobacco is more addictive because it contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes do, and it causes a number of oral health problems from tooth decay to cancer.


Oral Health Problems

If you use smokeless tobacco, you are at a greater risk of developing cavities.  Tobacco causes tooth decay, eats away at your gums and leads to tooth loss.  It also causes:

*Bad breath

*Stained teeth

*Sensitivity to hot and cold

*Decreased sense of smell and taste



Researchers have identified 28 different cancer caussing substances in chewing tobacco and snuff.  According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 40,000 new cases of oral cancer are reported each year in the United States.  Experts estimate that tobacco use is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of thes new cases.  When tobacco use is combined with alcohol use, the risk of oral cancer increases.

If not detected and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, post-surgery facial disfigurement and death.



Oral cancer occurs most often on the tongue, the floor of the mouth, and soft tissue areas on lips and gums.  Symptoms include:

*A sore on the lip or in the mouth that doesn’t heal

*A lump in the mouth or throat

*White or red patches on the gums, tongue, lips or lining of the mouth

*Unusual bleeding from the mouth or throat

*Difficulty swallowing

*Persistent hoarseness

See your dentist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.



The earlier oral cancer is discovered and treated, the better your chance for survival.  Check your tongue, mouth and lips monthly for symptoms, and see your dentist at least every six months for a regular checkup and cancer screening.  Your dentist can clean your teeth and treat the bad breath and swollen gums caused by tobacco use, and may be able to offer help in breaking your smokeless tobacco habit.

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