Chew On This? The Dangers Of Chewing Smokeless Tobacco

Following a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and visiting your doctor for wellness exams are important tasks for your health. Unfortunately, certain conditions may still develop due to unhealthy habits that are difficult to quit. While you most likely understand the dangers of smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco can also wreak havoc on your health. If you are part of the 3 percent of Americans who use smokeless tobacco, you should understand how this habit affects your mouth, teeth, and gums. Using this guide, you will understand the dangers of chewing smokeless tobacco.

Dental Dangers of Chewing Tobacco

The nicotine in traditional cigarettes can stain your teeth while causing bad breath. In addition, inhaling the smoke increases your risk of respiratory issues and even lunch cancer. While you may think it is healthier, smokeless tobacco still contains this dangerous nicotine. Whether you chew on the raw tobacco or allow the pouches to sit on your gums, the nicotine will seep into your saliva. This will not only affect your actual teeth, but also your gums.

Prolonged use of smokeless tobacco will stain your teeth and tongue, decreasing the appeal of your smile and causing you to have foul breath. Over time, the chemicals found in tobacco will also decrease your ability to taste properly.

Smokeless tobacco contains chemicals and sugar, which can build up and erode your tooth enamel. This will increase your risk of tooth decay, cavities, and infections. If left untreated, the tooth decay can spread onto your gums, resulting in inflammation, pain, periodontitis, and gum recession.  

Not only will you need to worry about tooth loss and discomfort, but chewing tobacco also leads to cancer of the mouth and throat. An estimated 48,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year alone, so properly understanding the dangers of smokeless tobacco is imperative.

Tips to Quit

After learning how chewing tobacco affects your oral health, you should want to break the habit. Unfortunately, this can be a challenging task, especially if you have used smokeless tobacco for a long period of time. Here are a few tips to help you quit:

  • Decide – The first step in quitting is to make a conscious effort to want to stop. Choose a date to quit and mark it on your calendar. Keep a marker by your calendar to document each day you have been successful in breaking the habit.
  • Replace – You may have been using smokeless tobacco at the same times each day. After eating a meal or after a stressful day of work are common times to chew tobacco, so replace the tobacco with a different task or hobby. Consider taking a walk, working out, or chewing sugar-free gum instead of chewing tobacco.
  • Fight – You may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms during the first week after quitting. Cravings will be high and you may also feel irritable, angry, and depressed. Fight off these withdrawal symptoms with exercise and deep breathing to meditate. In most cases, the withdrawal symptoms will be over after 2 weeks.

Once you quit chewing tobacco, consult with a dentist who specializes in cosmetic dentistry about improving your oral health. A professional cleaning and whitening treatment can remove heavy nicotine stains from the teeth.

If you have developed gum disease from using smokeless tobacco, scaling and root planning will be necessary. During a scaling treatment, ultrasonic tools are used to remove heavy buildup on the teeth and under the gum line. After the scaling treatment, your dentist will perform a root planing. This treatment removes plaque and tartar from the surface of the roots.

Using smokeless tobacco may seem like a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, but it is still a dangerous habit. Using this guide and the help of your dentist, you will understand the dangers of chewing tobacco and learn to quit to improve your oral health.