Smoking and Oral Health
 
Tobacco use

A terribly harmful oral habit is the use of tobacco. Here are some oral problems that may occur with the use of tobacco.
 
 

Oral Side Effects of Tobacco

  • sticky tar deposits or brown staining on the teeth
  • 'smoker's palate' - red inflammation on the roof of the mouth
  • delayed healing of the gums
  • increased severity of gum disease
  • bad breath or halitosis
  • black hairy tongue
  • oral lesions
  • gum recession - with chewing tobacco at the site of the tobacco wad, the gums react by receding along the tooth root, exposing the root
  • oral cancer

Hazards of Tobacco

One of the most devastating effects of tobacco is the development of oral cancer. Approximately 75% of all oral cancers in North America are associated with tobacco use and alcohol consumption. The risk of oral cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked each day and the number of years that the person has been smoking. Cigarettes are not the only oral habit that can cause oral cancer, all tobacco products, such as; smokeless/spit tobacco, cigars, and pipes are associated with oral cancer. The type of tobacco product will also dictate where the oral cancer can be located in the mouth. For instance, smokeless tobacco is linked to cancer of the cheek and gums.
 
 

Benefits of Quitting

The most significant preventive measure used to prevent oral cancer is cessation of tobacco products. When a person stops using tobacco, the risk of developing oral cancer drops rapidly. In 10 years of tobacco use cessation, the risk is similar to an individual who has never smoked. Oral cancer can be prevented by choosing to be a non-tobacco user.

Quitting tobacco use is very difficult, since it is an addiction. There can be temporary withdrawal symptoms that occur a short period after your last tobacco use.

A few "quitting" aids have been found to help users. These aids decrease withdrawal symptoms and the craving for tobacco. Some examples are:

  • the nicotine patch
  • nicotine gum
  • nicotine inhaler
  • nicotine nasal spray
All of these aids are beneficial if the individual is motivated to quite, and if used at the same time with counseling or self-help groups. Your dental office may offer a tobacco use cessation program as more and more dental offices are becoming involved in such programming. Other program sources may be medical and nursing associations, heart and lung associations, or even a community center.
 
 

Detection of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can be detected in the early stages. Some signs and symptoms of oral cancer are:

  • swelling, lump, growth, or hardness in the mouth or neck. These lumps are usually painless
  • red or white patches in the mouth
  • repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat
  • difficulty in chewing or swallowing

Any sore that does not heal after 2 weeks should be checked out by Dr Talcott or your physician.
 
 

Visiting your dental professional regularly is a way to help diagnose or detect oral cancer. Dental hygienist and dentists are trained to detect abnormalities. If there are any abnormal tissue changes, the dentist or oral pathologist can take a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis. Most lesions are not cancer, but it is best to be safe if anything looks unusual.

Remember, if the lesion or sore does not heal after 2 weeks, contact thisa office and make an appointment without further delay! Early detection of cancer increases the chance of successful treatment.

This site is intended as general information only and should not
replace regular consultation with Dr.Talcott or the
Dental Hygienist. Copyright 2003 Dr Bob Talcott, DDS

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