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All forms of tobacco use compromise oral health

By Tech. Sgt. Karen Nelson | 59th Dental Group | Dec. 17, 2014

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — It is common knowledge that tobacco use has significant negative effects on the body. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of preventable illnesses and death in the United States, and now studies have shown that tobacco use also has an effect on your oral health.

Many people are shocked when they discover the effects of tobacco use on the oral cavity, said Kelli Arricale, 59th Dental Group registered dental hygienist. Tar and nicotine found in tobacco not only stain teeth and cause bad breath, but also slow the healing process after a tooth extraction or other surgeries and can lead to periodontal disease, leukoplakia, and oral cancer.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, tobacco use has been identified as a risk factor in the development and progression of periodontal disease. Recent studies have also linked tobacco use to approximately 75 percent of periodontal disease among adults.

According to the American Dental Association, some signs of oral cancer are gray, red or white patches in the mouth, tenderness or numbness, and difficulty in chewing and/or speaking. If you notice any of these signs, contact your dentist or health care provider as soon as possible to schedule a full evaluation.

Smokers are also at a higher risk for other oral health problems including tooth decay and gingivitis. Gingivitis is an early stage of periodontal disease in which the gums may feel tender, swollen and bleed easily upon brushing and/or flossing. Leukoplakia is a whitish, thick patch that can be found on the gums, tongue or insides of the cheek and may lead to the development of oral cancer.

Ceasing tobacco use is the only way to reduce your risk of tobacco-related health problems. In addition to negative affects it has on your oral health, tobacco use also increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Quitting tobacco products can be difficult due to the addictive quality of nicotine. It is important and helpful to have a support system such as family and friends to help you beat the addiction.

Smoking cessation classes for active duty service members are available through the Clinical Health Psychology department located at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, JBSA-Lackland (292-5968). For more information on the effects of tobacco use as well as helpful tips in quitting, visit the following sites: the American Cancer Society at http://www.cancer.org, the American Dental Association website at http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/s/smoking-and-tobacco, the American Lung Association Quit Line, toll-freeĀ  number 1-877-695-7848 and/or website http://www.lung.org/, or UCanQuit.org.

No matter how you choose to quit, make today the day you choose to live a healthier tobacco-free life for yourself and your loved ones.