Tobacco Use Causes Oral Health Decay

Can lead to gum disease, mouth cancer, dentists warn

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FRIDAY, Nov. 5, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Tobacco use can cause serious oral health problems, including gum disease and oral cancer, says the Academy of General Dentistry.

"Not only is tobacco use the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, it also causes serious oral health problems. Our profession wants to inform all patients that tobacco use will cause damage to their oral health," academy spokesman Larry Williams said in a prepared statement.

Tobacco use is linked to oral cancer. Signs of this form of cancer include red, white or discolored areas in the mouth, patches or lumps in or around the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat.

The five-year survival rate for oral cancer is 54 percent because the disease often goes undiagnosed in the early stages. People who notice any symptoms should see a dentist.

Tobacco use also causes tooth loss and gum disease, a chronic infection and inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue. As the disease progresses, it destroys the bone holding teeth in place. Symptoms include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from the teeth, persistent bad breath and loose or separating teeth.

Tobacco use also stains and discolors teeth. It can also cause persistent bad breath and trigger a problem called black hairy tongue. This occurs when heavy tobacco use irritates the tongue, causing blackish or dark brown stains to cover most of the tongue surface.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation has more about oral cancer.

SOURCE: Academy of General Dentistry, news release, Nov. 5, 2004

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