Host an online training course.
Chalk statistics onto a sidewalk.
These are some of the activities suggested for National Kick Butts Day. The day seeks to empower youth to stand against tobacco use by participating in activism at their high school or college.
In addition to the activism of this day, we’d like to draw attention to what might not be as common knowledge: the harmful effects tobacco and smoking have on the mouth and eyes.
7 Ways Tobacco Products Can Hurt the Mouth
Tobacco products can hurt your mouth in a handful of ways. They can lead to:
- Bad breath. Nicotine inhibits the body’s ability to produce saliva, and a dry mouth can cause bad breath.
- Yellowed teeth. The two main culprits that yellow teeth in tobacco products are nicotine and tar. Even though nicotine is colorless, it turns yellow when exposed to oxygen.
- Gum disease. Nicotine deprives the gums of nutrients and oxygen, which can cause gums to recede. In some cases, tobacco users also experience bleeding or swollen gums.
But that’s not it. According to the American Dental Association, the impact of tobacco products on your mouth also includes:
- Stained tongue
- Dulled sense of taste and smell
- Slow healing after a tooth extraction or other surgery
- Difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems
Tobacco products can also lead to oral cancer.
Why Oral Cancer Screening Is Important
The Delta Dental Plans Association has released studies showing smokers are six times as likely to develop oral cancer as nonsmokers.
Delta Dental follows the recommendations of The American Cancer Society — that your dentist or primary care doctor check your mouth and throat for oral cancer as part of a routine checkup.
The process for screening is simple. Your dentist looks in your mouth for early signs of cancer. Tell your dentist about any swelling, sores, or discoloring around your mouth, lips, or throat.
Screening is important for the following reasons:
- Close to 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2017, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation.
- According to the foundation, oral cancer will cause close to 10,000 deaths in the U.S.
- On average, only 60 percent of those with the disease will live more than five years after being diagnosed, according to the Delta Dental Plans Association.
By quitting tobacco use, smokers can cut their risk in half in just five years. After 10 years, former smokers have the same risk as people who never used tobacco.
6 Ways Tobacco Products Can Harm the Eyes
Not only do tobacco products affect teeth, they can affect eyesight.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two of the greatest threats are cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens, which affects your ability to focus. According to the New York State Department of Health, heavy smokers (15 cigarettes a day or more) have up to three times the risk of cataract as nonsmokers.
Age-related macular degeneration (or AMD). AMD causes loss in the center of field of vision. Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than nonsmokers, according to the New York State Department of Health.
Smoking also increases the risk for:
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Uveitis (an inflammation of the part of the eye called the uvea)
- Dry eye syndrome (a condition in which a person either doesn’t produce enough tears or produces tears that evaporate too quickly)
Never Too Late to Quit
Nobody wants a discolored smile or to see the world through blurry lenses. If you are using tobacco, it’s not too late to quit today. By quitting, you can prevent gum disease and/or improve the condition of your gums, as well as lower your chances of eye disease.
Tomorrow is National Kick Butts Day. Many high schools, college campuses and other organizations around the nation will participate. You can participate by using the hashtag #ikickbutts.