World No-Tobacco Day 2020: Impact of Tobacco Consumption On Oral Health

While smoking tobacco, nicotine is released in the lungs and effects the other organs, tobacco when chewed stays in the mouth.

Dr Nikhil Modi, Senior Consultant, Respiratory, Critical care & Sleep Disorder, Institutes of Critical Care, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

Tobacco consumption happens in two forms- either chewing tobacco in the form of smokeless tobacco (pan masala, gutka & khaini) or smoking (cigarettes & beedi). Tobacco consumed in any form is extremely addictive because of nicotine and three hundred cancer causing carcinogens.

Chewing tobacco accounts for major consumption of tobacco in India, making head and neck cancers the most commonly reported forms.  Smokeless tobacco is usually a mixture of aromatic betel leaves and nuts that the user keeps in the mouth and chews on it for hours. When these leaves are chewed upon constantly for long durations, nicotine is released in the mouth along with other flavours, that causes the mouth to produce excessive saliva. Users generally end up spitting this out.

While smoking tobacco, nicotine is released in the lungs and effects the other organs, tobacco when chewed stays in the mouth. Development of tartar can lead to gum disease and can negatively impact saliva flow in the mouth. It makes it easier for bacteria to stick to teeth and gums. Repeated consumption causes various damage to the oral health:

Impacts On Oral Health
  • Bad breath– This is the most initial and primary impact of repeated consumption of smokeless tobacco, happens due to the residue of smokeless tobacco is left in the mouth and stained teeth.
  • Gum infections– Smokeless tobacco can irritate your gums, causing gum (periodontal) disease.
  • Tooth Decay or Dental caries- Sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco, increasing the risk for tooth decay. The main ingredients of smokeless tobacco are sand and grit, that wear down teeth, causing erosion and sensitivity
  • Leukoplakia- Thick white patched inside the mouth, are known to be early signs of mouth cancer
  • Oral submucous fibrosis– A chronic disease affecting any part of the oral cavity leading to stiffness of the oral mucosa, causing reduced opening of the mouth and inability to eat.
  • Oral and throat cancers- Head and neck cancer is the most life-threatening health risk linked with smokeless tobacco. Each time a person chews tobacco, poisons are released in the mouth putting them at a greater risk of mouth cancers. Ingredients like betel nuts made from betel leaves and slaked lime, present in smokeless tobacco, put people at a risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx (throat), oesophagus (gullet), stomach and pancreas. Cancers of the lip and cheek are also common, as the tobacco is pressed against the lining of the mouth.











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