With all the negative health effects of smoking, it’s very important that smokers use whatever means are necessary to kick the habit. This may include nicotine patches or nicotine gum. However, in the case of nicotine gum, there may be another set of adverse effects that need to be closely watched. As pointed out by registered dental hygienist Cynthia R. Biron, a certified emergency medical technician and chair of Tallahassee Community College’s dental hygiene program, nicotine gum may pose its own risks to the user’s dental health.
The Dangers of Smoking on Overall Health
It is well-documented that nicotine takes a serious toll on overall physical health. Health risks among smokers include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and vasoconstriction. Along with the pleasant sensation that people get from smoking comes a dizzy feeling, and a tolerance builds up, causing the person to need to smoke more the achieve the same effect. Over time, hypertension and related cardiovascular disease can also occur.
Potential Dangers of Nicotine Gum — Especially on Oral Health
A smoking deterrent, such as nicotine gum or a nicotine patch, raises the level of nicotine in the blood, which can cause its own problems, such as if the person goes on to smoke a cigarette while they are also chewing the gum or using a patch. Any underlying cardiac condition must also be monitored.
In the case of nicotine gum, 9 to 12 pieces must be chewed every day — a piece every hour, which is to be slowly chewed for 30 minutes. This chewing regimen must be gradually reduced over time. If stopped too quickly, the person might go back to smoking. A successful therapy may last for three months.
There are dental health risks that arise from such constant nicotine gum chewing, such as traumatic injury to the teeth or the oral mucosa, which is the mucus membrane that lines the inside of the mouth. The frequent chewing may also cause temporomandibular joint disorders or TMJ pain. Additionally, the nicotine gum can irritate the mouth, which may cause stomatitis, Gingivitis, aphthous ulcers, glossitis and a change in the person’s salivary flow and taste buds. During dental treatment, the dentist may regularly clean nicotine stains from teeth, but if the person uses nicotine gum, this might actually make their dental problems worse.
Weighing the Options for Kicking the Habit
The benefits from quitting a cigarette habit will likely far outweigh any dental issues from the nicotine gum. In controlled studies, the use of nicotine gum doubled the success rate of a program for smoking cessation. While nicotine patch therapy is recommended for a maximum of three months, Nicotrol (nicotine gum treatment) is prescribed for as long as five months.
What this means for nicotine gum users is that they should be especially vigilant with their dental hygiene and oral care. This product can still be effectively used to help you kick your smoking habit, but it’s a good idea to pay special attention to your teeth and gums, and visit your dentist often!