Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Abstract Recent reports have suggested that the use of smokeless tobacco is increasing in adolescents, and is particularly high in Native Americans, causing concern about possible effects on oral health. In this study, 226 Navajo Indians, aged 14–19, were interviewed regarding their use of smokeless tobacco (ST), cigarettes, and alcohol. Midbuccal and mesiobuccal sites on all fully erupted permanent teeth (excluding third molars) were examined for the presence of gingival bleeding, gingival recession, calculus, and loss of periodontal attachment. The oral mucosa was examined for evidence of leukoplakia. 64.2% (145) of the subjects (75.4% of the boys and 49.0%. of the girls) were users of ST. Of these, over 95% used snuff alone or in combination with chewing tobacco. 55.9% used ST one or more days per week. 52.2% consumed alcohol, usually beer or wine, and 54.0% smoked cigarettes. 25.5% (37) of the users and 3.7% (3) of the non-users had leukoplakia. The duration (in years) and frequency of ST use (days per week) were highly significant risk factors associated with leukoplakia. However, the concomitant use of alcohol or cigarettes did not appear to increase the prevalence of these lesions. No consistent relationship was observed between the use of ST and gingival bleeding, calculus, gingival recession, or attachment loss, either when comparing users to non-users or when comparing the segment where the tobacco quid was habitually placed to a within-subject control segment. In view of these results, there is little doubt that smokeless tobacco is significantly related to the etiology of leukoplakia. As some evidence exists that smokeless tobacco use is a significant risk factor associated with oral carcinoma, intervention programs to discourage the use of smokeless tobacco by adolescents should be a public health priority.
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