Myths and Truths about Tobacco Use and Cancer
Smoking is not just hazardous to your overall health; it also poses a number of oral health issues from simple discolored teeth to the more serious oral cancer. According to Thomas Kilgore, a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery in Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, smoking leads to the yellowing of teeth as well as characterized staining of the tongue. But the more threatening complications that may arise due to smoking are gum disease and oral cancer.
Although it is difficult to come up with a definite percentage of smokers who will get mouth cancer, but what is certain is that the disease has a high mortality rate. For a number of decades now, the death rate for oral cancer has ranged from 40 to 50 percent of all reported cases. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 90 percent of the individuals who have developed oral cancer have used tobacco whether through smoking, chewing or any other means. Oral cancer in this case refers to any kind of cancer which affects the lips, throat, mouth and tongue. The risk for oral cancer among smokers is six times higher than in those who are non-smokers. The magnitude of one’s risk is dependent on the length of tobacco use. Simply put, the longer one has been a smoker, the greater his or her risk for oral cancer.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is another complication brought about by smoking. One integral part of periodontal disease is bone loss. The progression of the disease starts with inflammation of the gums which leads to the inflammation of the bone which supports the roots of teeth and then the eventual deterioration of the underlying bone. In order to reverse or slow the progression of gum disease, surgical and non-surgical treatments may be employed. But without prompt dental attention, jawbone damage is inevitable as well as teeth loss. A study has linked 50 percent of cases of gum disease to smoking.
Certain myths concerning the use of tobacco have floated. One of the myths is that pipe smokers do not hold a high risk for cancer because they do not smoke very often. But because the pipe is held at the same place on the lip, they are still prone to cancer particularly one that affects the lips. Chewing tobacco is still unadvisable because tobacco contains sugar which increases the user’s vulnerability to tooth decay.