What Are the Effects of Tobacco Use on Oral Health?

What Are the Effects of Tobacco Use on Oral Health?

Jun 01, 2022

It’s commonly known that tobacco products can cause lung cancer. But what’s not as well known is that they can also contribute to oral cancer. And before you think that you may be immune to these conditions because you use smokeless tobacco or vaping products, the American Cancer Society reports that those products have 20 or more carcinogenic chemicals (cancer-causing). These associated risks are concerns for your oral and physical health, but tobacco use also affects the physical appearance of your smile with staining. When you’re searching for a dentist’s office in Longmont to screen for oral cancer or professionally whiten tobacco-stained teeth, our doctors at Mertz Family Dentistry are here to help.

Additional Concerns About Tobacco and Oral Health

Some studies indicate that smokeless tobacco products produce a higher oral health risk than heated tobacco products because the nicotine contained in the product absorbs through a patient’s cheek, gum, or teeth. Even if the user spits out the tobacco, the damage caused by the juices formed while chewing it contains tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). Although TSNA levels will vary by the product used, all levels pose a cancer risk.

Three types of cancer linked to the use of smokeless cancer are:

  • Mouth, tongue, cheek, and gum cancer
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Pancreatic cancer

Additionally, tobacco users need to be aware of a condition known as leukoplakia which can lead to cancer. The symptoms of leukoplakia are mouth lesions that contain one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Raised areas or patches in the mouth and gum area that you cannot rub off
  • Lesions that are mostly white but can also be grey, yellow, red, or a combination of these colors
  • Irregular textures of mouth and gum membranes such as nodular, hardened, or thickened

As you may tell, many of these symptoms will be noticeable to the patient and prompt them to visit their dentist for an oral health examination. That said, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may often be present without symptoms noticed by a patient. That’s why visiting your dentist for dental exams and cleanings in Longmont is essential, especially when oral cancer screening is available as a part of the service.

More Information About Oral Cancer

If you’ve heard about oral cancer but dismissed it as something of negligible risk, here are some statistics from the American Cancer Society concerning oropharyngeal cancer in the United States as of 2022:

  • Approximately 55,000 new cases are diagnosed each year
  • About 11,500 deaths from oral cancer occur each year

But here’s some good news: the overall death rate from these types of oral cancer has decreased in recent years. This decrease leads to an increasing number of dentists providing visual, oral cancer screening as a part of their dental exams and cleanings. And as you might imagine, much of the effectiveness of this visual screening relies on the dental clinic’s screening system.

At Mertz Family Dentistry, we use the Velscope®️ oral cancer screening system. This technologically advanced and award-winning instrument enhances the visualization of oral abnormalities that you cannot see with the naked eye. A dental practice that uses Velscope oral cancer screening can detect early-stage oral cancer symptoms even when a patient has not noticed symptoms.

Some symptoms that a patient may notice include:

  • Persistent mouth sores
  • Pain in the mouth, neck, or ear
  • Chronic hoarseness
  • Unexplained sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Non-tender lump on the neck area

These symptoms could also indicate other oral health concerns, such as an infection, so seeking immediate treatment is encouraged.

The Convenience of Oral Cancer Screening Near You

Many patients schedule their oral cancer screening and other oral hygiene appointments when they schedule their other health screenings such as mammography or blood tests. We also see patients who have recently stopped using tobacco products who would like to have an oral cancer screening as a benchmark for their healthier living going forward. Wherever you may fall on that spectrum, we’re here to answer your questions about oral health and tobacco use and provide the care you need to diagnose early signs of oral cancer.

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