Smokeless tobacco goes by many names: chew, snuff, dip, and snus. It has many forms: dry, moist, ground, powdered, shredded, leaf, and plug; but a smokeless tobacco by any other name is still tobacco. These products have a long history in the US of being marketed as enhancing athletic performance, helping people quit smoking, and as a non-addictive form of tobacco. The hard truth is that all of this is false. At McCarl Dental Group, we want our patients to know the true story behind the effects of smokeless tobacco on health: Ray’s story. Watch the video within this post to hear Ray’s oral cancer survival story.
Ray is a McCarl Dental Group patient who spent a year of his life undergoing combined chemotherapy and radiation to remove a small tumor from the back of his tongue. Ray was a long time user of smokeless tobacco, and his oncologist (cancer specialist) attributes the blame for his cancer to the period in his life when he used smokeless tobacco. Some studies indicate that oral cancer caused by smokeless tobacco can have an incubation of up to ten years. However, that doesn’t mean that quitting is pointless. The damaging effects of the toxins in the body are cumulative. So, the longer patients use, the more damage is done to their oral and whole body health.
Negative Health Effects Associated with Smokeless Tobacco
Smokeless tobacco may be the leading cause of oral cancer, but that’s not the only negative consequence of using smokeless tobacco. Some of the other negative effects of using smokeless tobacco include:
- Tooth discoloration caused by the dark tobacco juice. Think about the stains left on clothes, furniture, and car seats by tobacco juice, and the fact that it stains teeth will come as no surprise.
- Tooth decay caused by sugars in tobacco especially flavored varieties.
- The increased heart rate and blood pressure that athletes claimed improved their game actually has an adverse effect on cardiovascular health.
- More than 25% of users experience gum recession and bone loss that can lead to gum disease, tooth loss, and TMJ disorder.
- Social stigma because other people find spitting, juice stains, and bad breathe unappealing.
Oral Cancer & Smokeless Tobacco
90% of patients diagnosed with oral cancer every year use some type of tobacco, and of that 90%, the majority of patients are smokeless tobacco users. Many researchers believe the culprit is a group of chemical compounds referred to as nitrosamines. Smokeless tobacco leads to the frequent creation of four of these compounds NNK, NNN, NAB, and NAT, and all four tobacco-specific nitrosamines are considered carcinogenic (able to produce cancer). That’s why dentists and physicians recommend patients give up smokeless tobacco to protect their health and wellbeing, but we know it’s not easy. Remember: a person with a 2 can per week habit gets as much nicotine as a pack and half a day smoker. Nicotine is highly addictive, and will make overcoming smokeless tobacco difficult. The good news is that people kick the habit every day, and in doing so, significantly reduce their risk for oral cancer.
Find Out More
According to a 2001 research report published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, “the most important approach to decreasing morbidity and mortality associated with oral cancer is increasing early detection.” Your Greenbelt dentistry practice, McCarl Dental Group, couldn’t agree more. That’s why we screen for oral cancer during every visit. If you’re interested in finding out more about preventing or treating oral cancer or are ready to schedule an appointment, contact McCarl Dental Group today.