As we near the end of April, which just so happens to be Oral Cancer Awareness Month, the team at our Columbia dental office thought we should talk a bit about the oral health concerns associated with smokeless tobacco. Some individuals may assume that since it’s smokeless, chewing tobacco isn’t as harmful as smoking cigarettes. However, even though there isn’t any smoke accompanying chewing tobacco, there are still health risks associated with the habit.
How Smokeless Tobacco Affects Oral Health
Just like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is addictive, which makes quitting difficult. The longer someone uses chewing tobacco, the more they’re exposed to the dangers of it. This increases their chance of experiencing any of the numerous issues that can occur as a result:
Yellowing Teeth - Using smokeless tobacco can cause tooth discoloration, making your pearly whites not so white. While smile whitening may be able to help a little bit, staining caused by tobacco typically requires a form of cosmetic dentistry, like veneers, to get your teeth back to their white appearance.
Receding Gums - Chew can cause gums to recede and expose the tooth roots. Once roots are left open, the chance for cavities greatly increases. The roots also contain nerves, which, if uncovered, can make teeth sensitive to heat and cold.
Oral Cancer - The most serious concern of using any type of tobacco is the increased risk for oral cancer. In fact, tobacco is the top risk factor for developing oral cancer. If it’s not caught early, oral cancer can be deadly.
Know the Signs of Oral Cancer
Everyone should be aware of the signs of oral cancer because even though the risk of the disease is greater in tobacco users, the truth is, oral cancer can happen to anyone. The signs of oral cancer can easily be misdiagnosed as something minor, so if you notice any of the symptoms below, call your dentist in Columbia as soon as you can.
A white, scaly patch on the inside of the cheek or lip
Sores or lumps in the mouth or throat
Trouble chewing, swallowing, or speaking
Sensation of something being stuck in your throat
If you use tobacco of any kind, it’s incredibly important for you to see your dentist at least twice a year to keep an eye on your oral health and identify any potential problems early. Don’t have a dentist? Give our dental office in Columbia a call to schedule an appointment today.
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