Tobacco & Smokeless Tobacco

Smoking and tobacco

Did you know more than 20 million Americans have died because of smoking during the past 50 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most of those deaths were adults who smoked, but 2.5 million were nonsmokers who died because of secondhand smoke.

With cigarette smoke containing more than 7,000 chemicals and chemical compounds, it is no surprise that cigarettes and tobacco are harmful to your oral health and overall health.

Impact on oral health

The best thing for your teeth, mouth and health is to quit using tobacco.  It is not easy because nicotine in cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco is addictive.

Smoking directly affects oral health by reducing blood flow to gums and vitamin C levels needed to keep gums healthy. It also raises the temperature in the mouth, damaging and killing important cells.

Other oral health risk factors:

  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth and tongue
  • Dulled sense of taste or smell
  • Poor healing after tooth extraction or other surgery
  • Gum disease, bone loss or tooth loss
  • Mouth and throat cancer

The bottom line is that nicotine keeps people smoking longer and the longer they smoke, the more damage they do to their bodies.

Image of No Smoking Sign

Tobacco cessation tools

Smoking has been the number-one cause of preventable death and disease in this country for decades.

Nearly 500,000 people die every year from cigarettes and other tobacco product related deaths.

Quitting is hard but you can do it!

Here are a few resources to get started:

Smokeless tobacco

Chew, dip, pinch or snuff – no matter what you call it, smokeless tobacco is bad news. The whole look of using smokeless tobacco is bad – from the bulge in the cheek to those brown stained teeth. And smokeless tobacco does more to empty your wallet and trash your looks:

  • Using a can of snuff a day can cost up to $1,000 a year!
  • Sugars (used to make the tobacco taste better) cause tooth decay.
  • Sand and grit in the tobacco act like sandpaper and wear down your teeth.
  • Tobacco can irritate your gums, causing them to pull away from your teeth, which not only looks bad, but can also leave you with teeth that hurt anytime you eat or drink something hot or cold, and eventually cause tooth loss.

Just like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, a chemical that causes you to crave tobacco.

Once you are hooked on nicotine, it is very difficult to stop using tobacco products.

Nicotine also increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which can put you at risk for heart disease later in life.

One pinch of tobacco is loaded with other chemicals, too – up to 28 cancer-causing chemicals have been found in smokeless tobacco. These chemicals cause changes in the cells that make up your oral tissues – your gums, the lining of your cheeks and your tongue – changes that could lead to oral cancer.

Signals that you may be laying the groundwork for oral cancer include:

  • Any sign or irritation, like tenderness or burning in your mouth
  • A developing sore, usually at the spot where you keep the tobacco
  • A leathery, wrinkled or bumpy patch inside your mouth
  • White or grayish patches inside your mouth

See your dentist or physician if you notice any of these changes. Don’t let smokeless tobacco (or cigars or cigarettes!) damage your smile or interfere with your life. If you don’t use smokeless tobacco, don’t start. If you are a user, quit.

Visit for more information and a printable quit plan.

Your dentist can give you additional tips on how to quit.


Image of E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes: A growing concern

Smoking poses severe risks, but what about electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigs have risen to the forefront as a favorable alternative to cigarettes.

E-cigs have started to take off in the last decade with more than 250 brands and flavors, like wa­termelon, pink bubble gum and bacon. An estimated 4 million Americans use them, according to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.

E-cigs are battery operated nicotine inhalers that consist of a battery, a cartridge and an LED that lights up at the end when puffed on to simulate the burn of tobacco.

According to the Public Health Law Center, devices resemble cigarettes, cigars or pipes and produce a vapor caused from the heating of an e-liquid containing nicotine, flavoring and other addi­tives.

Some studies concluded devices contained traces of hazardous ma­terials, including a chemical found in antifreeze.

Wisconsin’s indoor smoking ban, which in 2010 prohibited smoking in bars, restaurants, private clubs, schools, hotels, clinics and other work­places, doesn’t apply to e-cigs. It is up to individual employers if they want to restrict e-cigarettes in smoke-free areas.

Other reasons to be concerned:

  • No regulation on the manu­facture and sale of e-cigs to pro­tect consumers – Contents vary widely and don’t always match the ingredients listed on labels.
  • Not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help smokers quit – The combination of cessation counseling and FDA-approved medications, such as patches, lozenges and gum, are the most effective strategy.
  • Doesn’t force smokers to quit – Simply gives another option.
  • Appeal to youth – Candy-like flavors such as grape, are mar­keted as better smelling, cheaper and a guilt-free alternative to smoking.
  • Quitting the use of tobacco products – whether they are cig­arettes, e-cigs or chew – is your best option for maintaining your smile and health.

For more information, talk with your dentist and visit for other resources.