The potential for cardiovascular and lung damage from using tobacco products are well-known. Much has also been advertised about the effects of second hand smoke. However, outside of the possibility of developing oral cancer from chewing tobacco, not much has been discussed concerning the effects that smoked and smokeless tobacco have on oral health. Along with the nicotine content, tobacco contains hundreds if not thousands of harmful chemicals that are used to process the plant, amplify the flavor or preserve the products.
Using any type of tobacco product stains the teeth and tongue. Users have chronic bad breath and a decreased sense of taste. In order to create a healthier oral environment, individuals would have to brush and floss after each time they smoked or chewed tobacco. Smoking or chewing tobacco also depletes the body of vitamin C, which is necessary for a healthy immune system. Stopping the addictive habit is the ideal solution. However, at least cutting down on the number of times that you smoke or chew throughout the day helps improve your oral health.
Inhibits Oral Healing
Nicotine constricts blood vessels, which interferes with blood flow throughout the body and the mouth. Blood carries necessary oxygen and nutrients to oral tissues. It is not uncommon for oral tissues to suffer damage while eating. Coarse foods like potato chips may cause minute tears. Most people have experienced biting their tongue. Hot foods cause slight burns. Injuries might also occur when playing sports or becoming involved in some type of accident affecting the mouth. Without proper blood circulation, the tissues have more difficulty making the necessary cellular repairs.
Decreases Saliva Production
Tobacco products interfere with saliva production and flow, which means that users typically have a dry mouth. Saliva is necessary to rinse the mouth after eating and to discourage bacterial growth. A lack of saliva allows plaque to grow more rapidly. The risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay then increases.
Hazards of Smokeless Tobacco
Smokeless tobacco is available as loose leaf chew, plug chew, or in dissolving lozenges, sticks or strips. While the smokeless products contain fewer harmful chemicals, they contain forms of sugar as flavor enhancers. When tobacco lies in the mouth between the cheek, gum and teeth, the sweetener encourages bacterial growth, which leads to tooth decay. Abrasive material and grit contained within the products erode gum tissue and tooth enamel. These effects can also lead to oral infections and an increased risk of developing cancer.