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Q: Is chewing tobacco a safe alternative to smoking?

Posted March 12, 2014 in Advice Column, Norwalk

A: It absolutely is not safe. At least one study found that, for one thing, tobacco chewers are some four times more likely to develop tooth decay than non-chewers. The study, overseen by a dentist and epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared men who chewed tobacco with men who used other forms of tobacco and men who used no tobacco products. The study included some 14,000 males aged 18 and older. Researchers interviewed them on their tobacco use and then calculated the number of decayed or filled teeth among them. The results were that men who used only chewing tobacco had a higher adjusted average number of decayed or filled permanent teeth than did those who used only snuff.

Chewing tobacco also has unsavory side effects like bad breath and discolored teeth. Nicotine levels in the blood of smokeless tobacco users are similar to those of smokers. Use of smokeless tobacco can diminish senses of taste and smell, which in turn can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Talk with your dentist about these and other perils of chewing tobacco.

Information provided by Norwalk Family Dentistry, 1101 Chatham Ave., 256-9000.

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