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How does smokeless tobacco harm your gums?

We all know that smoking is injurious to health but not many know that chewing tobacco or using smokeless tobacco also poses serious health hazards. It contains more than 30 cancer- causing chemicals, hence is one of the major reasons for the disease. In addition, the nicotine makes you addicted to excess use but how does smokeless tobacco harms your gums? Here are the reasons.

What is ‘Smokeless Tobacco?

Smokeless tobacco comes in different forms and is called by different names, including “spit tobacco,” “chewing tobacco, “dip” or “snuff or “snus“ that rhymes with goose. It’s usually placed between the lip and gum and kept for some time before being discarded. This long contact of cancer causing agents with the gums and its excess use is the’ trigger for imminent cancer as well as gum or periodontal diseases

How does smokeless tobacco affect your gums ?

Gum disease or Periodontal disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss, particularly among older individuals.  Although microorganisms that are associated with the dental plaque are the primary cause of periodontal diseases, use of tobacco among other factors, is one of the most important risk factors for periodontal diseases.

Chemicals like nicotine and tar in tobacco have harmful effects on the gum or periodontal tissues. They cause an increase in the accumulation of plaque and calculus (or tartar) that can irritate your gums and lead to infection.

If you use smokeless tobacco, then your gums are more likely to recede, especially at the places where the tobacco is placed in the mouth. This results in greater chance of losing the bone and fibers that hold your teeth in your mouth. Increased gum recessions exposes the tooth roots and your teeth may become prone  to root cavities or sensitive to cold and touch.

Your chances of developing oral cancer also increases significantly. They also slow down healing of any periodontal treatment or surgery. Also smokeless tobacco typically contains sand and grit, which can wear down teeth, causing tooth sensitivity and erosion.

Besides this, users of smokeless tobacco might experience many of the following problems:

  • Bad breath
  • Discolored  teeth
  • Decrease sense of taste and smell
  • Mouth sores
  • Irritation of gums, causing gum (periodontal) disease.
  • Higher risk of tooth decay as sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco.
  • Cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas.
  • Risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder, because they swallow some of the toxins in the juice created by using smokeless tobacco.

Tobacco use is addictive, and hard to quit  but stopping the use will not only reduce the risk of cancer, it will also reduce the risk of heart and lung diseases. It would also help in keeping your gums healthy and reduce your chances of oral and  periodontal diseases

These long term health benefits can be achieved by a strong commitment to have a ‘tobacco’ free life. There are many programs that can help you take the first step. Talk to your periodontist for more information .