If you’re a tobacco user, you’ve heard from your dentist about the need to stop using tobacco products because they can damage the health of your mouth. Some people even switch from smoking to dip tobacco or vice versa, because they believe that one of them is “less bad” than the other. Is this really true?
Cigarette use causes blood vessels around your teeth to atrophy, damaging the gum tissues around them. This can allow gum disease to progress more rapidly and not respond to professional treatments, due to the body’s inability to naturally heal itself of infection. As a result, many smokers with gum disease are at a risk to lose their teeth. There is also the increased risk of developing cancerous or precancerous tissues inside of the mouth, throat, and lungs.
Smokeless tobacco contains tissue irritants that lead to gum recession and precancerous tissue formation in areas where the dip his held. Gum recession can become so severe, that the entire surface of the root is exposed and the tooth is lost. Moving the dip from place to place will minimize irritation, but is not a proven way to prevent the advancement of cancerous diseases.
Both types of tobacco products present specific oral health risks. Simply giving one up for the other does not assure that you’re less likely to develop conditions like tooth loss, oral cancer, or lung cancer. Instead, ask your dentist or physician about smoking cessation programs or medication that can help you kick the habit for good. Make sure you receive an oral cancer screening from your dentist at least twice each year.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Eberhard, Mockingbird Dental Associates
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