Smokeless tobacco, also called chewing tobacco or snuff, is a type of tobacco that is chewed rather than smoked. Although the tobacco isn’t swallowed, it can still cause health problems, including issues with your oral health. But is chewing tobacco actually less harmful to your oral health than smoking cigarettes? Here’s what you should know about the oral health risks of smokeless tobacco.
You Still Have an Increased Risk for Oral Cancer
Even though smokeless tobacco isn’t inhaled or swallowed, it still increases your risk for oral cancers. Oral cancers include cancers of the neck, mouth, lips, back of the throat, and tongue.
When you chew tobacco, you’re exposing your body to over 25 cancer-causing chemicals . Since tobacco is one of the leading causes of oral cancer, avoiding all forms of tobacco can lower your risk for the disease and help protect your oral health. Chewing tobacco isn’t any better for your oral health than smoking cigarettes when it comes to oral cancer.
Smokeless Tobacco Has Been Linked to Gum Recession
Gum recession, where the gums pull away from the teeth, is a health risk with any form of tobacco. Smokeless tobacco has been linked to gum recession . In fact, people who use chewing tobacco have a higher risk of loss of periodontal attachment than smokers . This means that smokeless tobacco users are more likely to experience problems with their gum tissue attaching to their teeth than smokers.
In products that contain nicotine, such as chewing tobacco, nicotine can hinder blood flow to the gum tissue, meaning that you could have gum disease without noticing the signs, such as bleeding or swollen gums.
Chewing Tobacco Can Also Cause Tooth Decay
Tobacco users have 67% more tooth loss than non-tobacco users . This tobacco use includes smokeless tobacco. The higher incidence of tooth loss in those who use chewing tobacco is the result of tooth decay, which is a common oral health concern with smokeless tobacco.
Since chewing tobacco is sweetened with sugar, using these smokeless products can lead to a higher risk of tooth decay and potential tooth loss. However, both smoking and chewing tobacco can result in tooth decay and tooth loss, meaning one isn’t better than the other.
So What’s the Verdict?
The verdict is that smoking and chewing tobacco are both bad for your oral health as well as your bodily health. Consider quitting smoking and smokeless tobacco to protect your smile as well as your body. Ask your dentist for more information about quitting during your next checkup and oral cancer screening!