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If You Choose to Chew: Kelowna Dentists Reveal the Risks of Smokeless Tobacco


According to Health Canada’s survey on tobacco use, cigarette smoking is at an all-time low for teenagers. But other tobacco products, including chew, are quickly taking the place of cigarettes. Since smokeless tobacco is even more addictive and worse for your oral health, our Kelowna dental clinic reveals the risks behind choosing to chew.

What is smokeless tobacco?

You’ll find it in the pockets and backpacks of more and more teenagers because, students say, it’s easy to disguise and use in class. Smokeless tobacco, also referred to as chew, snuff or spit, is placed between the gum and teeth. Then, users spit out a black liquid, often into soda cans. In the meantime, nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth.

New varieties of smokeless tobacco that are even more convenient and appealing to teenagers have appeared on the market in recent years. With ‘Snus,’ pronounced ‘snooze,’ users drop tiny white tea bags filled with tobacco under their upper lip where there’s less saliva—no spitting required.

There’s also dissolvable smokeless tobacco products, such as the Tic Tac-like orbs and strips that melt on the tongue like breath mint strips.

Because it’s more accessible and undetectable, the popularity of smokeless tobacco is increasing. A 2010 Health Canada tobacco use monitoring survey showed five per cent of teens aged 15 to 19 reported having used smokeless tobacco.

Why is smokeless tobacco even worse for your oral health than cigarettes?

Our Kelowna dentists have examined the mouths of many chewers, and it isn’t pretty. Here are just some of the risks smokeless tobacco poses to your oral and overall health:

  • Cancers of the lungs and/or other parts of the body
  • Chronic bronchitis, emphysema
  • Heart disease; stroke; high blood pressure
  • Mouth sores or lesions that do not heal (tobacco-pouch keratosis)
  • Oral, throat and stomach cancer
  • Gum infection and tooth decay
  • Premature aging

If the health effects aren’t enough to motivate you to avoid smokeless tobacco, our Kelowna dentists suggest considering these side effects to your appearance and general well-being:

Side Effects

  • Accumulation of tartar and plaque
  • Bad breath, stained teeth; recession of the gum line and changes in the colour and texture of mouth tissue
  • Increased sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Nicotine addiction – chewing an average amount for 30 minutes is like smoking four cigarettes
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Ulcers, upset stomach and increased bowel activity

Want to see what winning (smokeless tobacco-free) smiles look like? Check out our post Hollywood Smiles.

Whether you’re visiting us for cosmetic or general dentistry, we provide a comfortable experience with results that will last. Contact us to book an appointment today!

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