Tobacco: Pledge to quit, win teeth whitening kit

Many health benefits go along with quitting tobacco. An often-overlooked benefit is the positive effect on oral health.

Davis-Monthan Dental Clinic is sponsoring a drawing for a custom teeth-whitening kit for those who pledge to quit using tobacco Nov. 16 for the American Cancer Association’s “Great American Smokeout.”

The kits include lab-fabricated custom bleaching trays as well as prescription bleaching solution. Submit a pledge any time prior to Nov. 16 at the dental clinic front desk or at a booth at the Davis-Monthan Base Exchange 10 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 10 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 15. The drawing will be held at noon Nov. 16 at the Exchange. Contestants do not have to be present to win.

Smokers who quit notice positive changes in the mouth. Breath smells better, food tastes better and teeth do not continue to discolor. However, there are other benefits too.

Nicotine doubles the risk of periodontal (gum) disease and is present in cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, as well as many of the liquids for e-cigarettes or vapes. Periodontal disease occurs when nicotine weakens the naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, decreasing the flow of blood, nutrients and immune cells to the gums. In order to protect the body from infection, the gums begin to “retreat,” resulting in a loss of bone and soft tissue supporting the teeth. Once this occurs, the teeth have less support and will loosen. Although a dentist can help slow the process, once it has occurred, there is no way to regenerate what’s been lost.

The good news is that the risk of periodontal disease dramatically decreases as the intake of nicotine decreases.

In addition to the negative effects of nicotine, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco have toxins, which increase the risk of mouth (or oral) cancer in addition to many other types of cancer. There are approximately 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes, hundreds of which are toxic. Although the dentist screens for oral cancer at exams, oral cancer is generally not detectable until it has progressed significantly. Once detected, treatment for oral cancer often requires removal of large portions of the mouth such as the tongue, lips or jaw.

The majority of oral cancers are linked to tobacco use. However, within five years of quitting, the risk of oral cancer (as well as other types of cancer) is cut in half.

Smokeless tobacco is an irritant to the gums and can cause recession of the gum tissue. The newly exposed tooth may be sensitive to hot, cold or touch. Recession due to smokeless tobacco may or may not occur alongside periodontal disease. Either way, the gum tissue, which is lost cannot grow back. Quitting smokeless tobacco can stop the progression of recession.

There are numerous tobacco cessation resources available to Davis-Monthan personnel and family members. There are multiple quit lines to call including TRICARE’s Freedom Quitline at 844-I-AM-FREE 0800-1700 CDT, or the American Lung Association’s Quitline at 877-695-7848 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Text MIL to 47848 to sign up for smoking cessation. A PCM or dentist can prescribe nicotine replacements such as gums, inhalers, or patches as well as medications to reduce cravings for nicotine. The HAWC has many resources and can offer one-on-one counseling to develop a customized plan.

The first step is to make a pledge and choose a quit date.

Courtesy of 355th Medical Group

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