Chewing Tobacco, Snuff – Risky Habits!
Smokeless tobacco may seem a simple way to get a nicotine fix while remaining a non-smoker, but chewing tobacco and snuff use come with their own health costs. Learn more about the health effects of smokeless tobacco before deciding whether these habits are worth the risk.
The nicotine fix?
For some users, an appealing feature of snuff and chewing tobacco is getting a nicotine fix without the need for cigarette smoke, making it seem a healthier alternative to smoking. Some smokers even try to use chewing tobacco and snuff as smoking cessation aides. However, more nicotine is absorbed from tobacco when it is chewed than when it is smoked. As such, smokeless tobacco products perpetuate the cycle of addiction that drives the desire for tobacco-containing products and can actually lead to more, rather than less, use of tobacco products.
The healthier option?
As with all tobacco products, snuff and chewing tobacco are filled with cancer-causing chemicals that pose an important health risk even without smoking or inhaling them. Smokeless tobacco use is associated with an increased risk of fatal stroke and heart disease. It also increases the risk of cancer; particularly of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas.
Early precancerous lesions in the mouth, called leukoplakia, are warning signs of deteriorating health. Even when not rapidly fatal, treatment of these cancerous conditions can require major reconstructive surgeries such as those required to salvage the function of the face and neck for oral cancer patients.
Smokeless tobacco use: something to smile about?
Even before cancers have had a chance to develop, the effects on oral health make smokeless tobacco a significant source of pain and discomfort. Smokeless tobacco products contain additives such as sugar and sand, all of which break-down the protective layer of enamel and leave the teeth susceptible to cavities and decay. As a result, the risk for cavities, gum disease and tooth decay is significantly increased by smokeless tobacco use.
Smokeless tobacco also wears away at the gums, particularly in the area where the tobacco is kept in the mouth. As the gums begin to recede and pull away from the teeth, the roots of the teeth become vulnerable to bacteria and infection. This early step in the development of periodontal disease can lead to significant pain and discomfort as well as tooth loss.
Time to quit?
The most important step toward tobacco cessation is deciding that it is time to quit. Support from friends, family and medical professionals can also be instrumental to recovery from tobacco use. While this article is intended to be informative, it cannot take the place of professional medical advice. Please consult Alabama Family Dentistry or another medical professional near you to learn more about the impact of smokeless tobacco on your oral health.
Alabama Family Dentistry has four locations in the Birmingham area – Warrior Family Dentistry, Acton Road Family Dentistry, Gardendale Family Dentistry and Sumitron Family Dentistry. Find out today how you can have a brighter smile tomorrow with Alabama Family Dentistry.