Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
August 8, 2016
Almost everyone knows that smoking is harmful in so many ways. It makes your body stink; it’s bad for your mouth; it will kill you. By the way, it’s also an expensive habit. Fortunately, tobacco use is becoming socially unacceptable. These are reasons why many people are trying to quit. If you are a smoker, you should quit.
How To Quit?
Some people quit cold turkey. Others seek out counseling groups or support groups. These are the best and safest ways to quit smoking.
While there are some prescription medications to help quit smoking (i.e. Zyban, Chantix), many tobacco users try a type of over-the-counter nicotine replacement product like nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, or e-cigarettes. Weaning off a tobacco habit by replacing it with pure nicotine makes sense if that is the only way to quit and quit for good.
Is Nicotine Replacement Good?
Well, that depends. Nicotine replacement is acceptable when it is a temporary and short-term method to quit the habit of smoking, dipping, or chewing tobacco. In addition and surprisingly, nicotine – alone and unadulterated – may have some specific health benefits. But overall, nicotine is not healthy for the body. Let’s look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
There is interesting research about nicotine. For example, those with ulcerative colitis (a form of inflammatory bowel disease) appear to benefit from nicotine; however, those with Crohn’s disease (another form of inflammatory bowel disease) do not. HERE. Also, in some animal studies, nicotine has been shown to decrease the clinical symptoms of multiple sclerosis. HERE. In other animal studies, nicotine has been shown to improve brain function. HERE.
In contrast, nicotine can damage many tissues in many organ systems. The harmful human effects from nicotine appear to far outweigh the good effects demonstrated by some experimental animal research.
I specialize in the treatment of gum disease. My clinical experience and research of published papers suggest that nicotine creates damage in the mouth. Here are some peer-reviewed articles: HERE. HERE. HERE.
Generally, this oily chemical damages the cells that secure the tooth to the bone, prevents the normal growth of jawbone that surrounds the tooth root, and decreases the ability for periodontal disease to heal. Nicotine is not a friend to the mouth.
Overall, nicotine is not a good player in the body. HERE. It is one of the most toxic poisons and has a rapid onset in the body. It increases the risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, and most gastrointestinal diseases. Nicotine decreases the body’s immune response and plays havoc on reproductive health. In addition, it decreases healthy cell growth, increases the risk of various forms of cancer, and can damage the DNA within our cells. Nicotine increases the risk of diabetes and decreases the beneficial effects of some medicines. Our eyes, lungs, kidneys, and most other organs can be damaged by nicotine.
On top of all these problems, nicotine is one of the most addicting substances we can put into our body. This addictive behavior and dependence of nicotine can be passed on to our children through our genes.
I personally do not want to put chemicals into my body.
If nicotine replacement products would break a tobacco habit, I am all for it. On the other hand, if medical research suggested that nicotine had some unusual anti-inflammatory benefits for some specific diseases, I would prefer following a different course. I would prefer providing my body with a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet along with supporting my immune system through efficient exercise and restorative sleep instead of using chemicals.
That’s just the way I roll.