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Tobacco and Oral Health

Most people are aware – at least in a general sense – of the fact that tobacco is bad for our overall health and can result in lung disease. But did you know that tobacco use also negatively affects your oral health? It’s true! In fact, using virtually any type of tobacco product causes a wide variety of issues that negatively impact your oral health. Before you light up – or, just as bad, decide to chew tobacco – here are some consequences worth considering:

  • Tobacco use increases your risk of developing a wide variety of cancers related to the mouth and throat, including oral cancer, cancer of the voice box, and esophageal cancer, to name just a few.
  • Tobacco makes you more susceptible to developing gum disease. And once you get it, tobacco use makes gum disease more difficult to treat.
  • Tobacco use takes a toll on your immune system. That means your system will have a harder time fighting infections anywhere in the body, including the mouth.
    • Tobacco use can cause your teeth to wear down. This is particularly true for people who chew tobacco or smoke cigars. That’s because tobacco leaves are abrasive and will, over time, wear down the enamel of your teeth. Once your enamel is gone, you can’t get it back. Eroded enamel causes your teeth to be more sensitive to hot and cold food and drinks. When your enamel is badly damaged, it will make your teeth turn yellow, and no whitening product can change that.

Considering all the negative effects of tobacco use, it makes sense to simply quit. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and quitting smoking or chewing tobacco can be challenging. But there are effective over-the-counter nicotine products that can help you diminish your tobacco habit and, eventually, quit altogether. Look for nicotine patches, gum, inhalers and lozenges that provide a small amount of nicotine to your system – but still enough to keep your nicotine cravings at bay. Other options include counseling and/or in-person or online support groups. Talk to your doctor about which of these options would be best for you, and ask for other suggestions about the best way to quit.

When it comes to your overall health and your oral health, any type of tobacco product is harmful. Although quitting may be difficult, it will be much more difficult to deal with the negative consequences if you don’t.

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