There is a belief in some areas that good oral hygiene can offset the destructive effects
of spit tobacco. That belief could not be farther from the truth. According to the National
Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a government agency dealing with oral
health, “there is no evidence that brushing and flossing will undo the harm that dip and
chew are doing to your teeth and gums.”
Spit tobacco can be many different forms. It may be in powder form such as snuff. It could
be “chew” tobacco in a leaf form, loose or twisted, dry or moist. But whatever the name, it
is still tobacco.
The tobacco industry prefers to call it smokeless tobacco. The name gives lulls you into
the feeling that this type of tobacco consumption is not as bad as cigarettes or other
types of tobacco smoking materials. Do not be fooled. This type of tobacco can be
devastating to not only your dental hygiene, but also your health in general.
Consider some of the things that spit tobacco can cause.
Cancer of the mouth tops the list as the most dangerous of the effects. It is no respecter
of age. This self-induced disease attacks the young as well as the old.
The U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, M.D., in 1986 declared that “smokeless tobacco
represents a significant health risk. It is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes.
It can cause cancer…”
Since those that chew or dip leave the tobacco in their mouth for extended periods of time,
usually in the same place, this can cause the gums to pull away from the tooth in that
area. When the gums pull away from the tooth, sensitive tooth roots are exposed providing
an access to the root for any number of problems; sensitivity, decay and infection just to
name a few.
Another of those problems is the side effect of the sugar contained in spit tobacco. The
longer sugar remains in the mouth the more damage it will do. The extended periods that
spit tobacco remains in the mouth provide a perfect opportunity for the sugars to work on
the tooth root, causing massive tooth decay.
Many sports figures, as positive influences to youth, are speaking out against spit
tobacco. Torii Hunter, Minnesota Twins American League winner of the Gold Glove award, six
years in a row has come out strong against spit tobacco. Olympic gold medal winners,
Picabo Street (alpine skiing) and Dominique Dawes (gymnastics) have lent the weight of
their names to the campaign against spit tobacco along with the mega-star Jackie Chan.
Spit tobacco does cause harm, sometimes deadly, to whoever may use it. No matter how much
we brush or floss; the effects cannot be overcome unless the habit is stopped.
If you are currently using spit tobacco and want to quit, there are some excellent
guidelines given by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Follow the guidelines, quit or help someone quit and let me know so that I can celebrate
with you. This is a dental problem that we have the power to end.