Why chew is bad for you

Using tobacco, no matter what kind, increases your risk for gum disease, tooth loss or even oral cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 90 percent of people with oral cancer (cancer affecting the lips, tongue, throat and mouth) have used tobacco in some form.

Smokeless tobacco—also known as chewing tobacco, dip, chew or snuff—contains nicotine and other chemicals that are absorbed through the tissues lining the mouth.

Smokeless tobacco can cause white or gray patches inside the mouth (leukoplakia) that can lead to cancer. This type of tobacco is known to cause cancers of the mouth, lip and tongue.1 At least 28 chemicals in smokeless tobacco have been found to cause cancer. The most harmful chemicals are tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which are formed during the growing and processing of tobacco. The level of tobacco-specific nitrosamines varies by product and these levels are directly related to the risk of cancer.

Smokeless tobacco can cause gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss.  It can irritate your gums, causing gum disease and, due to the sugar that is added to it, can increase the risk of tooth decay. It also typically contains sand and grit, which can wear down teeth, causing tooth sensitivity and erosion. Smokeless tobacco users may experience bad breath, teeth discoloration and decreased sense of smell and taste.

Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that young people who use smokeless tobacco can become addicted to nicotine, and may be more likely to also become cigarette smokers. This can lead to a whole other array of serious potential health problems.

If you need help quitting, there are many resources out there for you. Ask your dentist and also check out the American Cancer Society’s website for helpful tips on how to quit.


1International Agency for Research on Cancer. Smokeless Tobacco and Some Tobacco-Specific N-Nitrosamines. Lyon, France: World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2007. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 89.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014

Smokeless Tobacco Health Effects. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/smokeless/health_effects/index.htm