Chewing tobacco affects your dental health as well as the rest of your body. If you use smokeless tobacco and have thought about quitting, your dentist can help. In the meantime, here are a few facts that may help you decide to join the 200 million Americans who are tobacco-free.

Some wrongly believe that chewing tobacco is safer than smoking cigarettes. Chewing tobacco, however, is more addictive as it contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes and, therefore, can be harder to quit than cigarettes. One can of snuff delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes.

Today, it is estimated that snuff users increase their risk of oral cancer by 80%. Other cancers caused by tobacco include cancer of the pancreas, nasal cavity, urinary tract, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, intestines and the stomach. Studies have shown that 60-78% of those using chewing tobacco have oral lesions. Children who use chewing tobacco are 4 to 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users. Tobacco juice-related cancers can form within five years of regular use. Among high school seniors who have ever used chewing tobacco, almost three-fourths began by the ninth grade.

Tobacco causes bad breath, discolors teeth and promotes tooth decay that leads to tooth loss. Chewing tobacco users have a decreased sense of smell and taste, and they are at greater risk of developing cavities due to the added sugar in the tobacco leaves. The grit in snuff eats away at gums, exposing tooth roots. The roots are highly sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, so this condition can be painful.

Your dentist can help you kick your tobacco habit. In addition to cleaning teeth and treating bad breath and puffy, swollen gums associated with tobacco use, your dentist may prescribe a variety of nicotine replacement therapies, such as the transdermal nicotine patch or chewing gum that helps to wean addicted snuff dippers or tobacco chewers.

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

  • – Pick a date and taper use as the date nears. Instead of using spit tobacco, carry substitutes like sugar free gum, sugar free hard candy and 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. If they dip and chew, ask them not to do it around you.
  • – Make a list of three situations you’re most likely to dip and chew, and make every effort to avoid using tobacco at those times.
  • – Switch to a lower nicotine brand to help cut down your dose.