The first thing that a chaw user will learn from his dentist in Tijuana Mexico isn’t really news: he needs to quit chewing! What he will learn that he may not already know are the staggering statistics for various diseases that are directly contributed to this habit. Tobacco in any form contributes to the increased risk of developing cancer of the mouth, nasal cavities, larynx, pharynx esophagus stomach, liver, kidney, bladder and more. Cancer of the mouth is particularly difficult to treat and may require disfiguring surgery. Chewing tobacco, or chaw as it is often called, also contributes to periodontal disease which causes a large percentage of preventable tooth loss in adults. The use of all tobacco products contribute particularly to the development of cancers of the head, neck and mouth.
Each year about 30,000 people learn that they have mouth and throat cancer. Statistical incidence of tongue and throat cancer among chewing tobacco users is dramatically higher than it is for even the most addicted of smokers. Prolonged contact of the mutagens in chewing tobacco with gingival and mouth tissues makes the use of this product far worse than that of other tobacco products. Most users are aware that there is some risk from chewing tobacco but they probably aren’t fully aware of the staggering numbers.
Similarly, many chaw users have accepted the cancer risks but may not be at all knowledgeable about the increased risks of periodontal disease and tooth loss associated with this product’s use. The use of smokeless tobacco can result in:
– Small white precancerous patches or mouth sores called leukoplakia
– Bleeding and receding gums
– Tooth decay and tooth loss
Many are actually using chewing tobacco as a means to avoid smoking without realizing that the risks of chaw are far worse. To make matters worse there appears to be an even greater risk of periodontal disease and cancer when both tobacco and alcohol are used. Typically, users of one are users of the other. In addition, the use of smokeless tobacco can narrow your blood vessels putting strain on your heart, increase your heart rate, give you high blood pressure, cause irregular heart beat, and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Most folks shrug off the risks of these highly addictive behaviors with a simple “something will get you” attitude. But the truth is that there are many people who survive these diseases. For them there is more of an “I wish I would have listened when I was younger” attitude. Early detection is crucial to surviving these diseases. Avoiding them is of course the best approach, however.
A dentist will examine his tobacco users more carefully for precancerous lesions and discolorations. This is often the first person including the patient to notice the telltale signs of these cancers. People who are considered to be more at risk for the development of these cancers are likely to have more rigorous examinations than many.