Most of us have heard or read about the dangers of smoking tobacco and how it can destroy your health. For whatever reason, smokeless chewing tobacco isn’t talked about nearly as much even though it presents most of the same risks.
If you enjoy chewing tobacco, it’s crucial that you understand the potential damage this habit can inflict on your oral health. Explore our guide to learn why chewing tobacco is just as dangerous as smoking.
How Chewing Tobacco Affects your Teeth and Gums
Much like smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco is an addictive habit that exposes you to a variety of harmful chemicals. This can play a part in the development of several oral health conditions, each of which is broken down in detail below.
The most severe consequence that can arise from chewing tobacco is oral cancer. This deadly disease is responsible for killing nearly 53,000 Americans every year. It can result in a range of debilitating symptoms, some of which include:
- Sores in your mouth that don’t heal
- Persistent, severe mouth pain
- Red or white patches in your mouth
- Constant sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
Tobacco use is the number one risk factor for oral cancer. In fact, no less than 28 cancer-causing chemicals have been identified in smokeless tobacco products, making those who use them 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer.
As with many life-threatening diseases, early detection and swift treatment are key to defeating oral cancer. To stay ahead of its development, schedule checkups every six months with a dentist who provides oral cancer screenings, like Dr. A. Vandiveer Strait in Wilton, CT.
Another common consequence of chewing tobacco is gum disease. Also known as periodontal disease, this oral infection can wreak havoc in your mouth and eventually lead to tooth loss without treatment. It’s also been linked to cardiovascular issues including heart disease and strokes.
Nicotine affects wound healing and the immune system in a variety of ways, and this likely plays a role in destroying periodontal tissues. Smokeless tobacco products are also often sweetened with sugar, which increases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Gum disease is relatively easy to reverse in an early stage, but treatment becomes more difficult as the infection progresses. If your gums start to look red and swollen, or if they bleed when you brush and floss, this is usually an indication of gum disease.
Often, your dentist can eliminate gum disease by removing plaque from above and below your gumline, a treatment known as scaling and root planing. However, in the event that your infection leads to tooth loss, visit a dental implant specialist like Dr. Jim Eggleston in Turlock, CA.
In addition to affecting your health, chewing tobacco also hurts the appearance of your smile. Nicotine leaves stains on your teeth that cause them to darken and appear yellow or brown with repeated use. The longer you use tobacco products, the harder it becomes to remove the stains.
Though it’s not a medical issue, stained teeth can make you hesitant to smile and hurt your self-esteem. This impacts your ability to meet new people and make positive first impressions.
If your teeth are stained from chewing tobacco, visit a dentist who offers professional teeth whitening such as Drs. Tyler and Elizabeth Carmack in Bennington, VT. Depending on your needs, you can brighten your smile in just one office visit or remove the stains from the comfort of your own home.
Protect Your Long-Term Health by Avoiding Tobacco Products
If you want your smile to remain healthy and beautiful for many years to come, it’s crucial that you avoid all tobacco products. Chewing tobacco can lead to a range of harmful consequences including stained teeth, gum disease, and oral cancer.
The longer you indulge in this habit, the more difficult it will become to reverse the damage to your teeth and gums. That’s why it’s important to quit as soon as possible before you start to develop any long-term health issues.