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Tobacco Use

Smoking can result in oral cancer, reduce smelling and tasting abilities, compromise recovery after oral surgery, stain the teeth, and increase the risk of contracting periodontal disease.  The American Dental Association (ADA) and all pediatric dentists encourage children, adolescents, and adults to abstain from all forms of tobacco use.

It is essential that parents strongly discourage preadolescent and adolescent tobacco use.

Is smokeless tobacco less dangerous for teens?

Tobacco use in any form brings the oral region into direct contact with carcinogens (cancer causing agents).  Parents and teens often mistakenly evaluate smokeless tobacco as the “safer” option.  In fact, smokeless tobacco has been proven to deliver a greater concentration of harmful agents into the body, and to be far more addictive.  In addition, smokeless tobacco causes leukoplakias in the mouth, which are dangerous pre-cancerous lesions.

What are the signs of oral cancer?

Oral cancer can be difficult to detect without the examination of the dentist.  In some cases, oral cancer is not noticeable or even painful until its later stages.  Parents of tobacco users must be aware of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in the way the teeth fit together.
  • Difficulty moving the jaw.
  • Mouth sores that don’t heal.
  • Numbness or tenderness.
  • Red or white spots on the cheek, lip, or tongue.

It is important to state that the oral cancer is treatable if caught early.

How can I stop my child from using tobacco?

First, talking to the child personally about the dangers of tobacco use has proven an effective preventative strategy.  Second, parents should lead by example. According to research studies, children of non-smokers are less likely to pick up this dangerous habit.

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