Oral Cancer And Smokeless Tobacco

"Dip" ... quot;Chew" ... "Pinch" ... quot;Snuff" ... "Dirt" ... "Plug" ... all are different names for smokeless tobacco, a finely ground version of processed tobacco. No matter the name, smokeless tobacco is harmful and puts your health at risk. Chew on these facts:

  • About 30,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in 1999.*
  • More than 8,000 oral cancer patients will die this year.
  • Tobacco products cause about 75% of oral cancers affecting the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, and parts of the nose and larynx.
  • Nearly 30 cancer-causing substances have been found in smokeless tobacco.
  • One can of smokeless tobacco a day delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes!
  • You have a 50% greater risk of developing oral cancer with long-term use of smokeless tobacco.

* Cancer Facts and Figures, American Cancer Society, 1999

Smokeless tobacco has been glorified over time by images of quot;macho" men performing feats of fame and prowess, whether as athletes, rodeo cowboys, or country music stars. In reality, many want to kick the habit, but nicotine is addictive. It's hard for them to quit.

In a survey of major league baseball players, more than a third reported they had mouth sores, white patches, or gum problems. Nearly 60% said they wanted to quit. The nicotine actually decreases performance, causing dizziness and slowed reaction time.

Smokeless tobacco causes problems for your oral health:

  • White, leathery patches in your mouth or lips
  • Painful sores that may be pre-cancerous or cancerous
  • Yellow teeth and permanent tobacco-stained teeth
  • Exposed tooth roots from receding gums, likely to cause decay, sensitive teeth and pain
  • Cavities from the sugar added to the tobacco
  • Bad breath
  • Greater risk for developing oral cancer

Additionally, smokeless tobacco can affect your general health causing:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • A greater risk of heart attack
  • Withdrawal symptoms ranging from headaches, moodiness, and problems concentrating when you try to quit
  • Cancer that can be fatal

If you use smokeless tobacco, chew all these facts over. Choose to quit. Your health is serious business. Talk to your dentist about getting help to quit. Make the right choice -- it's for your body, your health, and maybe even your life.

By Thomas Warner, DDS

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