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Five Important Facts on Tobacco and How it Harms the Mouth


by Dentist Raleigh NC Thomas E Cooke DDS

There is a great amount of scientific evidence proving that the use of smokeless tobacco and smoking can cause cancer in the mouth – it is an undeniable fact that tobacco harms the mouth. Snuff dippers have been found to have a fifty –fold increase in mouth cancer. At least eighty percent of all oral cancer patients are smokers. Tobacco (Nicotine) dependence and addiction has been compared to other addictive drugs both in humans and animals.

Tobacco(Nicotine) has been found to be very similar to morphine and cocaine in its abuse potential. Nicotine is basically a psychoactive drug producing dose related changes in mood and feeling in the brain. In addition to mouth cancer, tobacco plays a role in the disease process of peripheral vascular disease, hypertension, peptic ulcers, and fetal mortality.

Oral cancer from tobacco

Whether it is from chewing tobacco or smoking, the irritation on the tissue of the oral cavity from tobacco over a prolonged period of time causes a condition called Leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is a smooth white patch of wrinkled skin that results in cancer about five percent of the time. The most severe form of mouth cancer encountered by tobacco users is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. At least eighty percent of all oral cancer patients are smokers.

• Early signs of mouth cancer

Tobacco users should be aware of several danger signs of mouth cancer. A mouth sore that does not heal should be checked by your dentist. A white patch or lump in the mouth could be precancerous or cancerous. A prolonged sore throat, difficulty in chewing, and the constant feeling that something is stuck in your throat are other signs that should be evaluated.

• Smokeless tobacco effects on the mouth

In addition to the negative effects of the chemicals from smokeless tobacco on the heart rate and blood pressure, the teeth and gums are also harmed. Chewing tobacco causes abrasion on tooth structure which causes tooth decay and excessive tooth wear. Gum recession occurs from the constant irritation from the tobacco sitting on the tissue. This results in permanent damage to the soft tissue in that area which also leads to destruction of the root structure and bone that gets exposed.

• Different tobacco products are equally damaging

Smoking cigarettes allows for the rapid absorption of nicotine through the lungs. Cigar, pipe smoke, and smokeless tobacco users receive nicotine through the oral mucosa. Once in the blood, nicotine acts on the brain and the heart systems in identical fashion regardless of the method of absorption. The oral cancer hazards of smoking are similar to the hazards of smokeless tobacco.

• Gingivitis and tobacco use

Studies that have been done recently on smoking and the health of the gums in the mouth have shown that tobacco smokers have a higher rate of gingival redness, gingival bleeding, and enlargement of the soft tissue in the mouth called inflammatory enlargement.