Tobacco, in all shapes and forms, can seriously put your child’s dental, and overall health in danger, causing potentially incurable damage. The majority of adult smokers began before the age of 19. However, most individuals who make it through adolescence and the teen years without ever smoking are unlikely to begin. It’s vitally important to inform your child about the dangers of using tobacco.

Some adolescents and teens believe that tobacco use is only dangerous when smoked, so they opt for smokeless tobacco. Using tobacco in any form, including smokeless, brings carcinogens (cancer causing agents) directly into contact with the oral region. As smokeless tobacco typically delivers a greater concentration of the drug, it can be far more dangerous and addictive. All forms of tobacco put users at risk of oral cancers. Smokeless tobacco can cause periodontal disease in addition to pre-cancerous lesions called leukoplakias.

If your child uses tobacco, watch for these following signs of oral cancer, as it is treatable if caught early:

• Repeated tightness and lack of movability in the jaw • Changes in the way the teeth come together in the mouth • Sores in the mouth that do not heal • Tenderness or numbness in the mouth • Spots of red or white on the tongue, cheek, or lip

Though treatable, surgery can result in disfigurement, which can easily be avoided in the first place by making sure your child abstains from tobacco use.

The first way to discourage your child from using tobacco is through communication. Warn them about the dangers. Secondly, it’s important for parents to lead by example. Research studies show that children of non-smokers are far less likely to become smokers. Thirdly, monitor your child. If you suspect that your child is using tobacco products, tobacco screenings can be requested.