Smokeless Tobacco and Oral Health:

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Like cigarettes, spit tobacco is addictive and can be harmful to your health. Many people, especially teenagers, believe that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to smoking. The fact is that it, too, is quite harmful.

Exposure to nicotine from smokeless tobacco is similar to nicotine exposure from cigarette smoking. Since most smokeless tobaccos contain substantial quantities of nicotine, they can cause the same addiction as cigarettes. Scientific evidence is quite strong that smokeless tobacco can cause cancer. Oral cancer substantially increases in the cheek and gum areas.

Spit tobacco contains at least 28 known cancer-causing chemicals and the addictive drug nicotine. The chemicals can lead to cancer of the mouth and throat. Nicotine can get you hooked on spit tobacco. If you hold an average-size dip in your mouth for 30 minutes, you get as much nicotine as you would from smoking 2 to 3 cigarettes.

Spit tobacco can cause gum recession, mouth sores, and oral cancer

Gum recession–when gums pull away from the teeth–is not only unsightly, but can make you vulnerable to decay on tooth roots and make your teeth sensitive. Gum recession is usually permanent and is difficult to repair.

Sores, white patches and lumps inside the mouth are signs of tissue damage caused by using spit tobacco. Some white patches can turn into cancer over time.

Spit tobacco users are more likely than nonusers to get oral cancer–cancer of the mouth and throat.

Oral cancer includes cancers of the lip, tongue, cheek, throat, gums, roof and floor of the mouth, and larynx (voice box). Surgery to treat oral cancer is often extensive and disfiguring and may involve removing parts of the face, tongue, cheek, or lip. Difficulty chewing, swallowing, talking, and even breathing can result from cancer and the surgery required to treat it. Oral cancer can spread to other parts of the body quickly. On average, half of oral cancer victims are dead within 5 years of diagnosis.

Besides ruining your health, spit tobacco can ruin your image: stained teeth, tobacco stuck between teeth, bad breath, and behaviors such as constant spitting and drooling are a turnoff to many people.

Preparing to Quit.

List the reasons you want to quit. These could include:

  • You don’t want cancer.
  • You don’t like bad breath and stained teeth.
  • You don’t want nicotine to control you.

Make a Step-By-Step Plan for Quitting.

  • Ask for encouragement from family and friends.
  • Ask another spit tobacco user to quit with you.
  • Call organizations such as the American Cancer Society for support groups in your area.
  • Talk to your dentist or physician about nicotine gum or patches.
  • Pick a Quit Date and taper down until you reach it.
  • Cut back or switch from the highest nicotine brands.
  • Find alternatives to spit tobacco. Sugarless gum or sunflower seeds make good substitutes.

On Quit Day . . .

  • Change your daily routine and stay busy.
  • Make an appointment to get your teeth cleaned.

Dealing with Cravings for Spit Tobacco.

  • Urges to use last only a few minutes. Try waiting them out.
  • Do some deep breathing.
  • Exercise.
  • Call a friend.
  • Reach for gum, sunflower seeds, or snacks.

Stick to it. Don’t give up.

  • Quitting takes practice. Chances of success increase with each try.
  • If you slip, pick up right where you left off.

If you’re not already a user, stay tobacco-free.

Don’t experiment. Spit tobacco is highly addictive; it’s easy to get hooked.


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