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Chewing tobacco users more prevalent in the South

Due to increased exposure, chewing tobacco users in the South are more likely to pack in cavities and oral cancer than their Northern and Western neighbors, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education.

According to a recent national study of chewing tobacco use in the United States, for all those that use tobacco, 57 percent are from the South, compared to 27 percent in the Midwest, 13 percent in the West and 3.5 percent in the Northeast.

"There may be a higher concentration of chewing tobacco users in the Southern region of the United States because this area has always been the tobacco-growing capital," reports Craig W. Valentine, DMD, spokesperson for the Academy, who practices in Lakeland, FL. "Generations of families grew up with the tobacco industry and due to a familial tradition, individuals may grow into the habit of using chewing tobacco."

Continued use of chewing tobacco puts patients at risk for precancerous oral lesions (oral leukoplakia) that can lead to oral cancer, increased cavities, gum disease, delayed wound healing, cardiovascular disease and nicotine addiction.

Chewing tobacco, teens and baseball

Research also has revealed an increase between middle school students and high school students using tobacco products. Four percent of grammar school boys use chewing tobacco, and this percentage leaps to 20 percent for high school boys; half of which already have pre-cancerous white patches in their mouths.

"Many boys begin to use spit tobacco when they become involved in sports, particularly baseball, thinking it will improve their performance," says Dr. Valentine. Yet scientific evidence shows this is false.

Chewing tobacco statistics:

  • Tobacco users who dip or chew 8 to 10 times a day may be receiving the nicotine equivalent of 30 to 40 cigarettes a day.
  • The risk of developing oral cancer for long-term spit tobacco users is approximately six times greater than for non-users.
  • Children who use spit tobacco products are 4 to 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users.
  • Chewing tobacco users have more root cavities. The tobacco eats away at gums, exposing tooth roots which are sensitive to temperature and bacteria, and creates a prime environment for cavity-causing bacteria to flourish.
  • Double dippers are those who mix snuff and chewing tobacco. They are more likely to develop precancerous lesions than those who use only one type of spit tobacco.
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