Currently there are 1.3 billion people on this planet who use tobacco in all its damaging forms. Let’s talk about its effect on the oral cavity.
University research has shown the smokeless tobacco as well as smoking tobacco in the majority of cases results in periodontitis (gum disease) and forms of oral cancer. Only half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than five years.
For years, the American Dental Association (ADA) has sponsored advertising campaigns to encourage the public to stop using tobacco. For example, you no longer see professional baseball players chewing and spitting tobacco; they have switched to sunflower seeds.
The case numbers of oral cancer and gum disease in women has significantly increased, largely in part to an increase in the consumption of alcohol and smoking.
New data shows that patients with chronic gum disease have an increased risk of cancer of the tongue. In addition, recent studies show a relationship between gum disease and cancer of the spleen and/or heart mitral valve complications.
Northwestern University studies have shown a direct relationship between smoking and osteoporosis, particularly among post-menopausal women.
Dental research concentrates on evidence-based data. This has led dental experts to conclude that total cessation of tobacco use, even for moderate smokers, will reduce oral problems.
Unfortunately, in my (Fallbrook) office alone, the detrimental effects of tobacco has caused many of my patients to lose teeth and brought on oral cancer. To date I have lost five patients due to metastasis of cancer.
It is my recommendation that smokers consider quitting immediately. In some cases, difficulties can arise when someone decides to quit smoking. Your dentist, physician and local health facilities can assist. Phillip Morris offers information about cessation in their program entitled ‘Quit Assist.’
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Philip Morris’ Quit Assist Program offers support and advice in order to help smokers kick their tobacco addiction, and recommends that smokers follow a five-step program in order to quit smoking effectively.
1. Get ready
Select a date to quit smoking and mark it on your calendar a month before quitting so you have time to prepare. Think of ways that quitting will improve your life and health; make a list to remind you later.
Get rid of temptations by throwing out all cigarettes and removing ashtrays from your home, car and workplace. Avoid people, places and activities that encourage you to smoke.
2. Get support
Research shows your odds at quitting are better with support from others.
Talk to friends, family and coworkers about quitting and why it is important to you. If they are smokers, ask them not to smoke around you and keep cigarettes out of sight.
Get expert help from a doctor, psychologist or other health professional.
Find a quit smoking program at a healthcare center or nonprofit organization in your area, or try a telephone quit line or Web-based support, such as http://www.smokefree.gov, which offers tips and methods to help you stay tobacco-free.
3. Learn new skills
Plan ways to distract yourself when the smoking urge strikes: take a walk, call a friend or use nicotine gum and lozenges.
Have other things nearby that you can put in your hands or mouth, like a pen, carrot sticks or popcorn.
Look for fun activities that will reward you and reduce stress, such as a hot bath, going out to dinner or a walk with a friend.
For many, medication can be the key to getting through the first weeks or months without smoking.
The FDA has approved several medications that help manage withdrawal symptoms and urges by providing small amounts of nicotine, or are the prescription drugs bupropion and varenicline, which help reduce cravings.
Speak to your healthcare provider about how medication can help, and research different medication at http://www.cdc.gov.
5. Stay smoke-free
Quitting is not the biggest challenge; it’s staying quit that’s hard. The final key to successful quitting is being prepared to handle difficult situations and to recover if you slip.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the greatest risk for relapse is in the first three months after quitting. Plan ways to cope when around other smokers or in difficult or stressful situations.
If you do slip and have a smoke, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t give up. Instead, think of what you can learn from this. Review what led you to smoke. Plan how you’ll avoid that or cope with it the next time the desire arises.