Chewing Tobacco and Your Dental Health: A Guide

The majority of tobacco users take their tobacco in the form of cigarettes, pipes or cigars. However, some people choose to chew tobacco. Chewing tobacco causes nicotine to be absorbed via the soft membranes inside the mouth rather than through the lungs. Some people believe that this method of using tobacco is safer than smoking. However, this is not the case. While chewing tobacco may reduce the risk of lung cancer, it increases the risk oral and dental health problems. Below is a guide to 4 oral-health problems that chewing tobacco can cause.

Oral Cancer

Medical research has found that chewing tobacco contains 28 chemicals which are known to be carcinogenic. These chemicals can lead to the formation of oral cancers which take the form of tumours in the gums, cheeks, tongue and lips. Chewing tobacco can also increase the risk that you will develop oesophageal cancer. 

Tooth Decay

While many people understand that sugar is bad for their dental health, not many people realise the volume of sugar which is added to chewing tobacco. Studies have found that, on average, 34 per cent of the weight of chewing tobacco consists of sugars. While some of this is made up of natural sugars, additional sugar is also added to reduce the bitter taste of the tobacco. This means that when you chew the tobacco you will be coating your teeth and gums in sugar, which provides the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. The bacteria will create plaque and acids which will cause you teeth to decay.

Tooth Discolouration

When chewed, tobacco produces a brown liquid which will quickly cause your teeth to become discoloured. The teeth will first become yellow, before developing a deeper shade of brown. While this may only be a cosmetic problem, it could lead to you feeling self-conscious when around others.

Leukoplakia Lesions

If you chew tobacco, you may develop leukoplakia lesions. These lesions take the form of small white areas within the mouth. The lesions will normally develop in the same part of the mouth you use to hold your tobacco when you are not chewing it. While they are not immediately life threatening, these lesions can become cancerous if they are not treated.

Chewing tobacco offers no health benefits when compared to smoking and may actually increase the risk of some oral health problems. If you are concerned about the impact your tobacco use is having on your dental health, you should contact a dentist today.