April is recognized as Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and while many people know the risks associated with smoking tobacco, we want to make sure our patients and neighbors know that just because smokeless tobacco is, well, smokeless, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own fair share of risks.
The most serious concern associated with smokeless tobacco use is oral cancer. Oral cancer is a serious disease that affects the lives of nearly 50,000 newly diagnosed people every year. If not caught early, oral cancer can lead to death. While anyone can get oral cancer, tobacco use (of any kind) is the top risk factor for developing the disease.
Know the Signs
- Pain while swallowing, chewing, or speaking
- Changes in voice
- A white, scaly patch on the inside of the cheek or lip
- A lump inside the mouth or neck
If you notice any of the signs above, contact your dentist to schedule an appointment as soon as you can.
Chewing tobacco can also cause gums to recede, mostly because the tobacco (and everything else found in it) is left on the gums for prolonged periods of time which irritates the tissues. Once gums have receded, the tooth roots become exposed, and that’s when the problems start. Without the protection of the gums, the roots are at increased risk for sustaining damage from foods, drinks, and more tobacco. Not only does this make cavities more likely, it also tends to lead to tooth sensitivity, which can be pretty painful.
Thanks to the ingredients found in all forms of tobacco, specifically tar and nicotine, tobacco users tend to suffer from a yellow smile. The good news is this discoloration can be reversed through a professional smile whitening or cosmetic dentistry treatment like veneers. But if a patient continues to use tobacco after treatment, the teeth can be easily stained again.
Regular visits to the dentist are important for everyone, but especially for tobacco users, smokeless or not. We’re here to help keep our patients healthy and we’re always happy to see new patients. Give us a call today.