Dip is a form of smokeless tobacco made from ground tobacco leaves. It goes by several other names including:

  • dipping tobacco
  • chew
  • snus
  • chewing tobacco
  • spit

Users of dip usually place the tobacco between their lower lip or inner cheek and gums and suck on it to absorb the nicotine.

Although dip isn’t inhaled the way cigarette smoke is, it can still be harmful to your health in many ways.

Regularly using dip also increases your risk of developing:

This article will help explain how dip can affect the health of your gums, teeth, and mouth.

It will also address some common myths about dip and its safety.

Can dip cause gum disease?

The regular use of chewing tobacco is linked to various types of gum and oral disease.

One cross-sectional study published in 2016 compared the oral health of people who smoked to people who regularly used chewing tobacco.

The researchers found that both groups of people were at a higher risk of developing periodontal (gum) disease.

Research has also linked smokeless tobacco use to receding gums. In severe cases, gum recession can lead to tooth loss if bacteria build up around the root of your tooth causing further gum disease.

Other effects on your teeth and gums

Chewing tobacco contains more than 4,000 chemicals, and many of these increase your risk of developing cancer.

Regular use of dip is linked to:

  • oral cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • esophageal cancer

According to the Food and Drug Administration, each year about 2,300 people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer that’s caused by smokeless tobacco. Of these cases, about 70 percent is oral cancer.

According to the American Dental Association, using dip also increases your risk of developing leukoplakia.

Leukoplakia is a white precancerous growth that forms in your mouth and increases your risk of developing oral cancer.

According to the American Dental Association, using dip on a regular basis also puts you at a higher risk of developing the following conditions:

  • tooth cavities
  • tooth loss
  • bone loss around teeth
  • teeth staining
  • bad breath

Myths about smokeless tobacco

There are some common myths and misconceptions about the use of chewing tobacco. We’ve addressed a few of them here.

Myth: Dip isn’t bad for you because it isn’t inhaled

Many people mistakenly think that dip is a healthier alternative to smoking because its use isn’t linked with lung cancer. However, tobacco use in any form has the potential to increase your risk of some types of cancer.

Even though you don’t inhale dip, it still contains cancer-causing chemicals.

In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, at least 28 chemicals in tobacco are known to increase your risk of developing oral, esophageal, and pancreatic cancer.

It can also increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Myth: Dip isn’t addictive like cigarettes

The tobacco in dip contains nicotine, just like cigarettes. It’s the nicotine in tobacco that’s extremely addictive.

According to research, when you use dip, the nicotine is rapidly absorbed through the skin on the inside of your mouth.

Nicotine can alter the chemical functions in your brain and can also mimic dopamine. This is the “feel-good” chemical that your brain releases when you’re in a rewarding situation.

Due to the effects of nicotine, a dip is as addictive as cigarettes. This can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as mood swings, irritability, and sleep disturbances, when you try to quit.

Myth: Good dental hygiene can undo the negative oral effects of the dip

Even if you follow perfect dental hygiene, there isn’t any evidence that brushing and flossing regularly can undo the negative effects of chewing tobacco.

If you use smokeless tobacco, quitting is the only way to reverse the damage it causes to your mouth, teeth, and gums.

Tips for quitting

Quitting dip isn’t easy, but it can significantly improve your oral health. It can also reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, or a heart attack.

If you decide to quit chewing tobacco, consider talking to your healthcare provider.

They’ll be able to provide advice on ways to make quitting easier. They can also prescribe medication to help manage your withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment options for nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) products. These include nicotine replacement products like lozenges, gum, and patches.
  • Prescription products. Your healthcare provider can prescribe nicotine replacement nasal sprays and inhalers.

Withdrawal symptoms are usually at their worst the first 2 to 3 days after quitting, so you may find that period the most difficult.

The following tips may help you stay on track with quitting dip:

  • Pick a quit date, mark it on your calendar, and commit to the day.
  • Try to slowly reduce your use of dip as your quit day gets closer.
  • Get rid of all the tobacco and tobacco-related items in your home. You don’t want to be reminded of dip while you’re quitting.
  • Stock up on items that you can chew or suck on when you have a craving. Sugarless gum, mints, lollipops, and celery or carrot sticks are some options. Try to find sugar-free alternatives so you don’t harm your teeth further.
  • Write out a list of the reasons you want to quit and put it in a place where you’ll see it often.
  • Ask your friends and family to avoid using dip or smoking near you.
  • Make a list of your triggers and figure out ways to avoid them.
  • Try to stay busy and distract yourself with a project or something you enjoy.
  • Join a support group or connect with others who are also trying to quit tobacco.

Resources for quitting

The following resources may be helpful when you’re trying to quit chewing tobacco.

  • LiveHelp. The National Cancer Institute’s LiveHelp online chat can connect you with a counselor who can help you quit tobacco. The chat room is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.
  • Quit for Life. The American Cancer Society’s Quit for Lifeline offers 24/7 support. Their website gives you access to 1-on-1 calls and medications that may help you on your journey to quit dip.
  • The Quitter’s Circle. Even though the Quitter’s Circle app focuses on quitting smoking, you can also use it to quit smokeless tobacco. The app gives you daily tips to quit tobacco and allows you to build an inner circle support group.
  • SmokefreeTXT. The SmokefreeTXT app sends you three to five messages a day to help you quit using tobacco. You’ll receive daily tips and encouragement to give you the highest chance of success.

The bottom line

Regularly using dip increases your risk of developing oral, esophageal, and pancreatic cancer.

Dip use is also linked to:

  • gum disease
  • receding gums
  • tooth decay
  • tooth loss
  • a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke

Quitting dip can be extremely difficult due to the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine.

However, putting a quit plan in place, knowing how to effectively deal with your withdrawal symptoms, and creating a strong support and resource network can help you get it done.