All of the major forms of tobacco used in the United States have oral health consequences. Some of the health effects, you may have heard or seen, are yellowing/discoloration of teeth, bad breath, and tooth decay – these health effects are well known. However, there are far more serious oral health conditions or diseases that can result from tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes and cigars, e-cigarettes or vapes, chewing tobacco and nicotine pouches.
Tobacco-related Oral Health Concern Facts
People who smoke are three times more likely to lose all of their teeth. According to the CDC, four in ten adults who currently smoke have lost ALL of their teeth.
WHY? Smoking is a leading cause of severe gum diseases in the United States. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a gum infection that can affect the bone structure that supports your teeth. In severe cases, it can make your teeth fall out or lead to periodontitis, gingivitis, and more.
Symptoms of gum disease/what to watch for:
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Pain when chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Gums which have pulled away from your teeth
All forms of tobacco contain nicotine, a highly addictive compound found in the tobacco plant. Quitting nicotine is very difficult because nicotine can change the way our brains work, causing intense cravings for more. People average seven to ten attempts to quit before they are successful.
What Does That Have To Do With My Teeth?
If tobacco use can hurt your mouth, teeth and gums, and if it is that hard to quit using it because of nicotine’s addictive properties, then anyone may use it longer than they wish to – even past a time when they see damage being done to their mouths.
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, behind only heart disease. In 2022, 270 new cases and 50 estimated deaths of oral cavity and pharynx cancers were reported in New Hampshire.
- Cigars and chewing tobacco (chew) are not safer than cigarettes. All tobacco products contain toxins that cause cancer. E-cigarettes are also now shown to cause dental caries or cavities.
- Cancer from chewing tobacco does not just occur in the mouth. Some of the cancer-causing agents in “smokeless” tobacco can get into the esophagus and pancreas.
- When smokeless tobaccos like chew and dip are left in contact with gums, cheeks, and/or lips for prolonged periods of time, this can cause leukoplakia—appearing as either white or gray patches inside the mouth. It results in cancer in three to five percent of all cases.
- About 70% of tobacco users report having mouth sores.
- Using chewing tobacco can also cause: cracking and bleeding lips and gums, receding gums, and bone loss in the jaw, which can eventually make teeth fall out.
- Chewing tobacco decreases a person’s sense of taste and ability to smell. As a result, users tend to eat more salty and sweet foods, which can lead to more cavities.
- Using smokeless tobacco during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of an early delivery and also stillbirth.
- New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services Oral Health Program
- CDC on Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss
- National Cancer Institute: Oral Cavity, Oropharyngeal, Hypopharyngeal, and Laryngeal Cancers Prevention (PDQ®)