The Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco on Oral Health

The Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco on Oral Health

The Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

Who says smokeless tobacco is better for you than cigarettes? While dip manufacturers may promote this idea in their advertisements, it’s definitely not true. The dangers of smokeless tobacco can be just as great as cigarettes.

Sure, tobacco users who dip exclusively have a lower rate of being diagnosed with lung cancer than smokers do. But dippers have a 50% higher rate of oral cancer than non-dippers. Oral health is an even more immediate concern that all smokeless tobacco users need to be aware of.

Sugar is one of the little known dangers of smokeless tobacco. Would you allow your child to walk around with a piece of candy in his or her mouth all day? Well, that’s essentially what you’re doing when you dip.  And just like candy, the sugars from smokeless tobacco cause tooth decay and cavities.

The sugars form a layer of plaque around the tooth, where bacteria grow. The bacteria attack the tooth, causing it to break down and decay. Although regular brushing and flossing can help cut back some of the decay, it’s nearly impossible to get the teeth completely clean. And it’s even harder when you’re packing your lip with sugar most of the day.

Dip also contains grit. Yes, grit, as in dirt! These small particles wear away at your tooth enamel. Imagine the effect that chewing on a handful of sand would have on your teeth! You get the same experience when dipping over a long period of time. And once your enamel is gone, it can’t be re-grown. The softer, more sensitive parts of your teeth are exposed, leading to pain and decay.

And it’s not just your teeth that are affected by the dangers of smokeless tobacco. Accustomed to having dip in your mouth, your gums will begin to wear away at the site where you hold your smokeless tobacco product. This has an effect on both your gums and your teeth, as gum recession exposes more of the tooth to the sugars and grit.

Once the soft lining of your mouth is affected, it’s hard to repair. Sores and lesions frequently form in the mouths of dip users. This is because your body is trying to fight against the constant supply of dip in the mouth. Using dip while you have a sore in your mouth is extremely dangerous. The toxins in the smokeless tobacco have direct access into your blood stream. It’s imperative for you to contact your dentist immediately if such abrasions form, as they can be an early sign of oral cancer.

But if knowing the dangers of smokeless tobacco on your oral hygiene isn’t enough, let’s crunch some numbers…

The Costly Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

The average can of dip costs about $3. Better than a $8 pack of cigarettes, you say? Wait! Here are some more numbers you need to know:

  • Filling                                    $288
  • Extraction                              $501
  • Crown                                    $1018
  • Root Canal                            $1201
  • Gum Treatment                     $972
  • Bridge                                    $2698
  • Implant                                  $3938

These are the average costs of dental work in the United States according to Consumer Reports. Even if you have a good insurance plan, most insurance companies pay more for preventative care than they do for restorations. So, the dangers of smokeless tobacco may be more costly than expected!

In fact, many dip users are embarrassed to go to the dentist for annual cleanings because of their discoloration and bad breath. The plaque buildup from tobacco use and regular eating and drinking will exacerbate your dental issues without regular check-ups. Brushing and flossing is always helpful, but you’ll never remove all that nasty plaque without a dentist’s care.

In addition to ruining your teeth, you are merely putting off the inevitable. Once a cavity forms, it won’t ever go away. Just because it doesn’t hurt at the moment doesn’t mean that it won’t give you problems in the near future. The sooner you take care of your decay, the less money it will cost you. The dangers of smokeless tobacco may seem inconsequential at first, but they add up over time. And the sooner you quit dipping, the happier your mouth (and wallet) will be!


California Dental Association.

Consumer Reports Survey.

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