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Dangers of Tobacco

Posted on April 9, 2019 in General oral health

Teenagers mixed outsideAn estimated 438,000 Americans die each year from diseases caused by smoking.1 Using tobacco products increases the risk of getting cancers of the head and neck. According to the American Cancer Society, no form of tobacco is safe.2

Smokeless products, often thought of as a less harmful option to smoking, are linked with cancer and can be deadly.2 Types of smokeless tobacco include chewing, oral, snuff, dipping and dissolvable tobacco. The average age of first-time users of smokeless tobacco is 10 years old.3 In 2016, Major League Baseball banned smokeless tobacco at ballparks, joining a growing number of tobacco-free major and minor sports, which may encourage younger fans to refrain from trying smokeless tobacco.

On the rise are all forms of e-cigarettes, which saw an increase of 78% among high school students in 2018.4 Known by many different names, including e-cigs, hookahs, vape pens and USB flash drive shaped products, e-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine, flavorings and other additives to the user via an inhaled aerosol.5 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the aerosol people breathe and exhale from e-cigarettes can contain harmful substances including cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration concurs that e-cigarettes can contain dangerous chemicals including formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical. Moreover, the use of e-cigarettes in young people may make them more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future and may increase their risk for addiction to other drugs.6

Tobacco users are 10 times more likely to develop cancer of the head or neck than those who do not use tobacco.7 Those who use smokeless tobacco are almost 50 times more likely to develop cancer of the cheek and gums.8  Quitting and avoiding tobacco can greatly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.

During a routine dental checkup, your dentist will perform an oral cancer screening and look for any symptoms that may cause concern. Symptoms include irritation, soreness or swelling in the jaw or throat; red or white patches in the mouth; and difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking. A dental visit should also be scheduled if any of these symptoms arise and last for more than two weeks.

Going to the dentist should be a part of your oral health regimen in addition to brushing twice and flossing once daily. Regular dental visits not only help you maintain a healthy smile, they can lead to early detection of oral cancer and save your life.

1 Oral Cancer Foundation,

2 American Cancer Society,

3 Oral Cancer Foundation,

4,5 The Surgeon General,

6 Centers for Disease Control,

7 Tobacco-Related Cancer in Illinois, Illinois Department of Public Health,, page 6

8 Tobacco-Related Cancer in Illinois, Illinois Department of Public Health,, page 6