Chewing Tobacco

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Some mistakenly believe that chewing tobacco (dip or smokeless tobacco) is safer than smoking cigarettes. However, chewing tobacco is more addictive because it contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes and can be harder to quit than cigarettes. One can of dip delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes.

Smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer. Oral cancer results in approximately 9,000 deaths per year. Other cancers caused by chewing tobacco include cancer of the pancreas, nasal cavity, urinary tract, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, intestines and the stomach. Kids who use chewing tobacco products are 4 to 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users. Tobacco juice related cancers can form within five years of the beginning of regular use.

Chewing tobacco use causes bad breath, discolors teeth and promotes tooth decay that leads to tooth loss. Smokeless tobacco users have a decreased sense of smell and taste. They are at greater risk of developing cavities and receding gums which exposes the roots of teeth, increasing hot and cold sensitivity and risk of decay.

The most common sign of possible cancer in smokeless tobacco users is leukoplakia, a white scaly patch that can develop on cheeks, gums, or the roof of the mouth. Red sores are also a warning sign of cancer. However, too often the signs of pre-cancerous lesions go undetected. Dentists can diagnose and treat such cases before the conditions develop into oral cancer. If a white or red sore appears and doesn't heal, see your dentist immediately for a test to see if it's pre-cancerous. Chewing tobacco users also should see their dentist every three months, to make sure a problem doesn't develop. Studies have found that 60 to 78 percent of chewing tobacco users develop oral lesions.

Double dippers, who mix snuff and chewing tobacco, are more likely to develop pre-cancerous lesions than those who use only one type of smokeless tobacco. Long-term dip users have a 50 percent greater risk of developing oral cancer than non-users, and dip users are more likely to become cigarette smokers.

Make the following goals to quit and never resume chewing or dipping:

  • Pick a date and taper use as the date nears. Carry substitutes like sugarless gum, sugarless hard candy or sunflower seeds.
  • Cut back on when and where you dip and chew. Let friends and family know that you're quitting and solicit their support.
  • Switch to a lower nicotine brand to help cut down your dose.

If you have any questions regarding the use of these tobacco products, Dr. Mahlin will be happy to discuss them with you.


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