We’ve all heard about the harmful effects that tobacco can have on our health — even our oral health. If you don’t smoke but indulge in chewing tobacco, this highly-addictive substance can wreak havoc on your oral health. It puts you at risk for many dental issues, making regular trips to your dentist that much more important.
Chewing tobacco goes by many names — chew, dip, snuff, smokeless tobacco, among others. It involves placing a small amount of chew between your gums and lips and leaving it there. As the juices build up, users have to spit into some kind of receptacle occasionally. The newest form of smokeless tobacco contains the product in teabag-like pouches that are kept between the gums and lips for 30 minutes without spitting.
Just because it’s smokeless doesn’t mean chewing tobacco is harmless. Chewing tobacco often contains sand or grit, which can wear down your teeth, causing sensitivity and erosion. In addition, the chemicals from the tobacco enter your bloodstream. This can cause blood flow in your mouth to weaken, and it can also lower your immunity. All this leads to your mouth becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. On top of all that, many companies add sugar to their chewing tobacco, which increases the risk of tooth decay.
Chewing tobacco can also put you at a high risk for severe gum disease. When you chew, irritation can lead to gum tissue pulling away from your teeth. As gums recede, it exposes the roots of your teeth and increases the risk of tooth decay. Some indicators that you have gum disease are sensitivity to hot and cold as well as discomfort when eating or drinking.
There are more than 25 cancer-causing chemicals found in chewing tobacco. The more your gums and lips are exposed to these harmful carcinogens, this puts you at risk of developing oral cancer affecting your mouth, lip, gums and tongue. There are a number of different warning signs you should be aware of that may indicate oral cancer, including:
- Sores that will not heal
- Pain or numbness anywhere in your mouth or lips
- Lumps or bumpy patches
- Discoloration of oral tissues
- Problems chewing, swallowing or speaking
- Difficulties moving your jaw or tongue
- Changes to the way your teeth fit together
Whether you used chewing tobacco in the past or you currently chew, it’s essential that you make regular trips to your dentist. Not only can we address issues like tooth decay or gum disease, but we can also check you for signs of oral cancer. Patients are welcome to make an appointment any time at Gateway Dentistry Group.