Is Smokeless Tobacco any Less Harmful?

Are you one of the many people who think chewing tobacco is safer than smoking it? Some people think that because they are not inhaling cigarette or pipe smoke, they won’t get cancer associated with smoking. However, just because chewing tobacco is smokeless, doesn’t mean it’s any less harmful to your oral health. In today’s blog, your Livonia, MI dentist, Dr. James Stewart, explains why smokeless tobacco isn’t any less harmful.

What is Smokeless Tobacco?

Smokeless tobacco is tobacco that you do not smoke. Instead you chew it. It comes in different forms and textures and can be referred to as “chewing tobacco,” “snuff,” “dip,” or the most recent “snus.” Snus is from Sweden and comes in a teabag-like pouch that you put between your upper lip and gum. After about 30 minutes you simply throw it out. It doesn’t require spitting, does not encourage excess saliva, and is not as messy, hence its popularity.

Oral Health

Regardless of the flavor, texture, or name, smokeless tobacco is still tobacco and contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals–as do cigarettes–and carries many of the same risks including:

  • Stained teeth
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum irritation
  • Periodontal disease
  • Oral cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Pancreas cancer
  • Mouth, lip, and tongue cancer
  • Death

There is no way of preventing tobacco chewers from swallowing some of the tobacco juice as it mixes with their saliva. As a result it puts them at risk for other cancers such as colon, bladder, cancer of the voice box and the esophagus. Another drawback is the ingredients in smokeless tobacco often include sand and grit which can cause tooth erosion and sensitivity.

Signs and Symptoms

Common symptoms of oral cancer are the appearance of white or red sores in the mouth that won’t heal. The most common among smokeless tobacco users is a white, scaly patch or lesion inside the mouth or lips, called leukoplakia. Unfortunately, signs of precancerous lesions are often undetectable.

About Dr. Stewart

James R. Stewart, Jr, DDS, PC and our compassionate staff proudly serve patients of all ages from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Northville, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and all surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (734) 425-4400.