Though smokeless tobacco is considered less harmful than cigarettes, it is still a harmful alternative to cigarettes. Prolonged use can cause nicotine addiction, oral cancer, pharyngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, progressive receding of gums leading to fallout of teeth and precancerous lesions in the mouth (leukoplakia). This article discuss about effect of smokeless tobacco on mouth and teeth.
Smokeless tobacco also known as chewing tobacco comes as loose tobacco leaves, brick form (plug tobacco) or in twist form. This contains 2000 chemicals, majority of which are considered cancer causing.
Effect of Smokeless Tobacco on Mouth and Teeth
Abrasion of Teeth: It is found that sand and grit contained in ST products gradually wears away the tooth enamel. Premature loss of enamel can increase the sensitivity of teeth.
Recession of Gums: Placing of a small wad of chewing tobacco can cause constant gum irritation, thereby causing permanent damage to periodontal tissue. This can damage the root canal and the bony structure of the tooth, thereby resulting in loosened teeth or permanent teeth loss.
Progressive Decay of Tooth: During the curing and processing stage, sugar is added in smokeless tobacco products for added flavor. Reaction of sugar with bacteria (found in the oral cavity) leads to acid reaction, thereby causing tooth decay.
Discoloration of Tooth: Long-term use of smokeless tobacco leads to absorption of nicotine into the teeth. This slowly develops brown stains on the tooth.
Oral Cancer: Prolonged use of ST due to nicotine and other cancer-causing agents can lead to formation of whitish lesions inside the mouth (leukoplakia). These precancerous lesions or leukoplakia could become cancerous when triggered by further tobacco exposure.
Besides these, smokeless tobacco exposure can cause restricted tongue and jaw movements, difficulty in swallowing, difficulty in chewing, oral sore that refuses to heal, lumpy feeling inside the throat, etc.