Oral & Vision Health Blog

How Does Chewing Tobacco Harm the Mouth?

Think you’re doing your body a favor by putting down the cigarettes and chewing your tobacco instead? Guess again. Chewing tobacco can be just as dangerous to your health as smoking, and is detrimental to both your oral and overall health. So...how does chewing tobacco harm your mouth?

Well, for starters, chewing tobacco increases your risk of the following types of cancer:

  • Mouth 
  • Tongue
  • Cheek
  • Gums
  • Throat
  • Esophageal
  • Stomach
  • Pancreatic

Chewing tobacco is not glamorous, despite how it can be portrayed as “cool” on TV and movies—and in sports. In fact, there have been some well-known and tragic cases of baseball players who lost their lives to tobacco related cancers.

  • Babe Ruth: The legend had a cancerous tumor in the back of his throat and died at the age of 52.
  • Bill Tuttle: The outfielder had a tumor which cost him his jawbone, cheekbone, teeth, gum line and taste buds.
  • Tony Gwynn: The Hall of Famer died of mouth and salivary gland cancer in 2014.

In addition to increasing your risk for cancer, chewing tobacco can cause the following conditions and complications:

  • Leukoplakia: These white mouth sores can turn into cancer. One study found that nearly 3 out of 4 daily chewing tobacco users had sores in their mouth. Tobacco and alcohol use are the biggest risk factors for leukoplakia, so cutting them out is key to prevention. 
  • Receding gums and gum disease: Sugar and irritants in chewing tobacco can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, leading to gum disease. This can destroy the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth and keep them from falling out.
  • Scratching and wearing down of teeth: The coarse particles in chewing tobacco wreak havoc on your enamel as if you were chewing on sand. This can make you more susceptible to cavities and tooth damage, similarly to grinding your teeth.
  • Cavities and tooth decay: Tobacco’s high sugar content and abrasive construction are a tooth’s worst nightmare and can directly lead to cavities. .
  • Discolored teeth: Chewing tobacco can stain your pearly whites, perhaps irreversibly. A common treatment for this is teeth whitening, but it isn't always effective. 
  • Impaired sense of taste and smell: Chewing tobacco lessens the sense of taste and smell over time. This can lead to unhealthy eating habits since users have difficulty getting pleasure from food. 
  • Halitosis: That’s the fancy word for bad breath, which you’ll likely have if you chew.

Beyond the mouth damage, people who chew may be at risk for cardiovascular disease and nicotine addiction. The bottom line is, there’s no safe level of tobacco use, whether you chew it or smoke it. Do your mouth and overall health a favor by kicking the habit. And don't forget about your oral hygiene either. It is a key part of good oral and overall health. Make sure you are using the right toothpaste by downloading our FREE toothpaste guide. Just click the image below! 

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