The Hidden Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

The number of people smoking cigarettes continues to decline in about half the regions of the country.

But according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , smokeless tobacco usage has continued to increase since 2000.

Smokeless tobacco has many names, including: spit tobacco, chewing tobacco, chew, chaw, dip and plug.

Using these products requires the tobacco to sit in the mouth along the gum line while being sucked, which causes saliva to build up, requiring frequent spitting. Sucking and chewing the tobacco allows the addictive nicotine to be absorbed into the bloodstream through the tissues of the mouth.

Side Effects of Smokeless Tobacco

Some smokeless tobacco users believe that these alternatives to cigarettes are less harmful. And while it’s true that smokeless tobacco is less likely to cause lung cancer, these products are still linked to many other health conditions, including oral cancer – a disease that is expensive to treat and often deadly.

New tobacco users who use smokeless products are likely to experience bad breath, yellowish-brown stains on their teeth and mouth sores. Often, there are more problems with repeated use, including cracked or bleeding lips and receding gums — a condition that can eventually cause tooth loss.

Smokeless Tobacco May Cause Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is one of the most devastating forms of cancer and is the greatest concern associated with smokeless tobacco use. Those who survive often experience a significant impact on their quality of life.

Effects of oral cancer include:

  • Facial, head or neck disfigurement
  • Decreased production of saliva, leading to dry mouth
  • Difficulty speaking or complete loss of speech ability
  • Decreased ability to eat
  • Depression

If you use smokeless tobacco products, your risk of developing oral cancer is the same as it would be if you smoked cigarettes.

Other Diseases Associated with Smokeless Tobacco

Oral cancer isn’t the only health issue associated with smokeless tobacco. Over time, users often experience an increased heart rate, high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats. Each of these symptoms can lead to other adverse health issues, putting you at higher risk of heart attack, stroke and brain damage.

Have You Used Smokeless Tobacco? Your Dentist Can Help

If you are currently using or have previously used smokeless tobacco products, it’s important that you keep up with regular visits to your dentist. Healthy oral care habits at home, along with regular check-ups, can help detect and prevent many of these harmful side effects.

However, the best way to lower your risk of developing these issues is to stop using smokeless tobacco products altogether. Use these resources to help you quit.

About the Author

Jed Jacobson, DDS, MS, MPH
Chief Science Officer of Renaissance Life and Health Insurance Company of America

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

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