Did you know that smokeless tobacco (called chewing tobacco or snuff) is even more detrimental to your overall health than smoking cigarettes is? It is true! Let us first look at what this product is and then how it affects you.
Chewing tobacco is sometimes known as spitting tobacco. It comes in several types:
- Loose Leaf chewing tobacco is stripped and processed cigar-type tobacco leaves, loosely packed to form small strips. It is often sold in a foil-lined pouch and usually treated with sugar or licorice.
- Plug chewing tobacco consists of small, oblong blocks of semi-soft chewing tobacco that often contain sweeteners and other flavoring agents.
- Oral (moist) snuff is a finely cut, processed tobacco, which the user places between the cheek and gum that release nicotine which, in turn, is absorbed by the membranes of the mouth., snuff and chewing tobacco.
- Snus (or pouches)which originated in Norway and Sweden, is a tea-bag like a packet of moist snuff tobacco and flavorings, placed between the upper gum and lip. The product design does not require the user to spit, unlike traditional moist snuff.
- Dissolvable tobacco products are made of ground tobacco and flavorings, shaped into pellets, strips, or other forms, that the user ingested orally and do not require spitting.
All of these types of chewing tobacco are held in the mouth inside the cheek or between the cheek and gum and sucked on or chewed to extract the flavor. Snuff and chewing tobacco are commonly available in tins or pouches; popular brand names include Skoal and Copenhagen. The amount of tobacco placed in the mouth is referred to as a pinch, dip, lipper, or quid. The portion of chewing tobacco a person uses is referred to as a plug, wad, or chew.
All of these forms can negatively impact your oral health. Here are several ways that chewing tobacco can be harmful to your body:
1. It is addictive with a higher nicotine absorption than cigarettes. According to the Oral Health America (oralhealthamerica.org), although nicotine is absorbed more slowly from chewing tobacco than from cigarettes, three to four times more nicotine is absorbed from chewing tobacco than from a cigarette, and the nicotine from chewing tobacco remains longer in the bloodstream.
2. Chewing tobacco contains 28 cancer-causing agents. Among them are formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, arsenic, benzopyrene, nickel, lead, mercury and cadmium. These are not what a person wants in his or her body.
3. Users of snuff and chewing tobacco are at an increased risk for certain types of cancer, most notably cancer of the oral cavity including cancers of the:
- floor and roof of the mouth
4. Chewing can cause Leukoplakia, a precancerous disease with thickened, white patches or lesions that form on your gums, the insides of your cheeks, the bottom of your mouth and, sometimes, your tongue.
5. It increases a person’s risk of developing gum diseases and gum recession (pulling away of the gum tissue from the teeth
6. The teeth themselves can be directly affected by causing:
- stained teeth
- tooth decay
- abrasion (wearing down of teeth by the action of repeated chewing)
- tooth loss
7. These products also put a strain on your immune system, making is less capable of warding off infection and disease, heart disease in particular.
To sum up, long-term use of smokeless tobacco products can cause serious health issues. Dr. Scott Edwards and our team strongly advise you to stop using smokeless tobacco, or any kind of tobacco product. Parents should especially beware of the many ways that tobacco companies promote to children. There is no safe level of tobacco use, smokeless or otherwise! The good news is that many of these issues can be reversed or slowed when you stop using tobacco products!
Need to Quit? We can help!
You can always talk to any of our staff about kicking the habit. Chewing tobacco is an addiction that can be overcome. As with cigarette smoking, there are many other resources available today (various support systems, programs, and even prescription medications) to help people quit using chewing tobacco.
Examples of products available used to wean a person from nicotine addiction from chewing tobacco include:
- nicotine gum (Nicorette),
- nicotine patches (Habitrol, Nicoderm CQ, Nicotrol), and
- Lozenges (Nicorette)
There are also helpful organizations, two of which are:
1. The National Cancer Institute. Their website is: smokefree.gov, or you can call them toll-free at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848). They have tools to help smokers and smokeless tobacco users quit. They offer live online chats with cessation counselors Monday through Friday and there are even smartphone apps available called Quitguide and QuitStart.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cessation materials and services. Their website is: cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/cessation/
Your overall health is connected to your oral health. The whole team at the dental offices of Scott Edwards are concerned with the well being of all of our patients. If you have any questions about how tobacco products affect your oral health and hygiene, please do not hesitate to ask one of our staff members. Please give a call over to either of our Memphis locations (you can find the contact info here), and schedule a time to come in and chat with us about how we can help you to improve your overall oral health!!