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Pediatrician. 1989;16(3-4):170-7.

Smokeless tobacco addiction: a threat to the oral and systemic health of the child and adolescent.

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Department of Preventive Dentistry, Indiana University School of Dentistry, Indianapolis.


The use of smokeless tobacco (ST) within the United States has increased greatly in recent years, especially among adolescent boys and young men. Recent national data completed from several large scale studies indicate that 10-12 million Americans use some form of ST. Representing a significant systemic and oral health risk, ST usage can produce a wide range of negative effects on both soft and hard oral tissues. These oral conditions include bad breath, discolored teeth and restorative materials, excessive tooth surface wear (abrasion), decreased ability to taste and smell, gingival (gum) recession, advanced periodontal soft and hard tissue destruction, tooth loss, soft tissue erythema and leukoplakia. Long-term ST usage is directly correlated to an increased risk of cancer of the mouth, larynx, throat and esophagus. Much of the destruction of oral tissues is related to the localization of the tobacco quid; i.e., it is habitually held in only one spot in the mouth. Nicotine from ST can activate the sympathetic nervous system thereby significantly increasing heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac stroke volume and output and coronary blood flow. A common misconception is that ST is a 'safe' alternative to smoking cigarettes. Several recent Surgeon General's Reports list ST as being addictive. It is highly possible that ST users will 'graduate' to cigarettes if they eventually conclude that these products are socially unacceptable, inconvenient or out of vogue. Health professionals, educators, parents and schoolchildren need to be informed about the significant health risks associated with ST use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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