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Pledge to be Tobacco Free in 2010: Tips to Quit Smoking

If you've been struggling with a new year's resolution to quit smoking, try speaking with your dentist.

Dentists are in a unique position to counsel patients about tobacco use and offer advice and encouragement. Tobacco's effects often appear first on the mouth and throat, which can include oral cancer; periodontal (gum) disease; delayed healing after tooth extraction or surgery; fewer options for some kinds of dental care (such as dental implants); bad breath; stained teeth and tongue; and a diminished sense of taste and smell.

Tobacco users have even more incentive to kick the habit: according to the American Dental Association, smoking may be responsible for almost 75 percent of periodontal diseases among adults. That's noteworthy because recent studies have suggested that periodontal disease is related to conditions like heart disease. Tobacco products damage gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue. An example of the effect is receding gums — a receding gum line exposes the tooth roots and increases your risk of developing a sensitivity to hot and cold, or tooth decay in these unprotected areas.

Also, smokeless tobacco and cigars are not safe alternatives to cigarettes, according to the ADA. At least 28 cancer-causing chemicals have been identified in smokeless tobacco products. Smokeless tobacco is known to cause cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Users also may be at risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder, because they swallow some of the toxins in the juice created by using smokeless tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco can irritate your gum tissue, causing periodontal disease, and sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco, increasing the risk for tooth decay. Smokeless tobacco also typically contains sand and grit, which can wear down your teeth. Even cigar smokers who do not inhale cigar smoke are still at risk for oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers.

There are several ways to quit smoking. If you're struggling to quit, you might not have identified the perfect solution yet. Here are some tips from the ADA:

  • Set a date to quit and stick to it. Choose a "low stress" time to quit
  • Enlist the support of your family, friends and co-workers.
  • Ask your dentist or physician about nicotine replacement therapy for use in cessation attempts. Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good.
  • Remove tobacco and tobacco paraphernalia from your home, office and car.
  • Seek tobacco-free environments to curve your temptations.
  • Exercise. It may make you feel better about yourself and your decision to quit smoking.
  • When you crave a tobacco — exercise the 4 Ds (Delay — craving will pass in 5-10 minutes; Drink water — it will help to wash the toxins from your body; Do something else — distract yourself by being active; and Deep breathing — deep inhalations and exhalations are relaxing).
  • Anticipate problems and have a realistic plan to deal with challenges.
  • Call 1-800-QUITNOW or go to "www.smokefree.gov".

And once you're successful at kicking the habit, talk to your dentist about removing tobacco stains from teeth. Whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration, but in-office or over-the-counter solutions — even whitening toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance — may work for you.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

3/24/2010

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