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Jan 03, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

HEALTH - You say you want a resolution? Try quitting tobacco, says Oral Health Matters

By Dr. Jody Zajacz

With the start of every new year, we make resolutions to improve our lifestyle and rid ourselves of bad habits. But the one resolution that will most affect your health and well-being is quitting smoking.

Smoking affects nearly every organ in your body and diminishes your overall health, and it’s easy to see why – tobacco smoke contains more than 70 chemicals that cause, initiate or promote cancer.

According to The Lung Association, it is estimated that tobacco kills 37,000 Canadians a year.

In terms of your oral health, tobacco is one of the major risk factors for oral cancer and cancer of the esophagus and voice box. The Canadian Cancer Society and Statistics Canada estimate that 4,000 new cases of oral cancer will have been diagnosed in Canada in 2012. It is also estimated that 1,150 oral cancer-related deaths will have occurred in 2012. 

Tobacco use may also be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal (gum) disease. Severe gum disease may lead to tooth decay and an increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks.

If you think there are safe alternatives to tobacco, think again – cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco are just as harmful to your health.

As the experts in oral health care, dentists can easily spot the damage tobacco does to the mouth and teeth. Smokers tend to suffer from bad breath, stained teeth and dry mouth. Oral diseases associated with smoking – such as gum disease and oral cancer – are more obvious to the eye than other conditions and that gives dentists the unique opportunity to identify patients who use tobacco. And help them quit.

Smoking is an addiction and the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe many people fail on their first attempt. Talk to your dentist or physician – not only can they provide guidance and support, they can recommend (and prescribe) tobacco cessation medication.

Here are some other tips to help you quit.

1. Set a date in the near future. This will allow you time to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Choose a time when stress will be lower – post-holidays are a good time to wind down and focus on quitting.

2. Tell your family, friends and co-workers you are quitting. Building a support system will improve your chances of quitting successfully.

3. Investigate and use all resources available to you, such as brochures, websites and books.

4. Avoid environments or situations that could tempt you, or put you in contact with people who smoke. Anticipate the triggers to your tobacco use and be prepared to avoid them. Chew sugarless gum, go for a walk or pick up a hobby to distract you.

5. Reward yourself for reaching small goals. For example, treat yourself to a nice meal with family or friends to celebrate one week of being smoke-free. Put the money you would normally spend on tobacco in a jar. At the end of the year, take that money and spend it on a vacation or a new wardrobe.

Start the new year right – be a quitter! Your body will thank you for it.

For more information, visit the Ontario Dental Association’s website at www.youroralhealth.ca

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Dr. Jody Zajacz is a general dentist practising and living in Toronto and the mother of two young daughters. She is a member of the Ontario Dental Association. The Ontario Dental Association is the voluntary professional organization that represents the dentists of Ontario, supports its members, and is dedicated to the provision of exemplary oral health care and promotes the attainment of optimal health for the people of Ontario. Visit www.youroralhealth.ca

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