Greensboro, NC-- A Greensboro dentist sees 4-5 patients a week who use chewing tobacco. He's the first step towards early detection and identifying precancerous cells.
What's the worst thing your dentist ever said to you? Maybe that you needed to brush more or that you have a cavity.
If you've picked up a can of chewing tobacco, your answer is probably different.
Eric McCollum, D.D.S., owner of McCollum Cosmetic, Implant and Family Dentistry said, "In the South especially, it's very common. We have a lot of kids that play baseball. Baseball is real big in North Carolina and so we have a lot of kids."
Dr. McCollum has treated patients experiencing tooth decay, gum recession, tooth loss, and precancerous gum tissue. The changes in tissue are not noticeable to the average person. Only a trained dentist can identify the change in tissue color and texture, and determine if it's a precancerous spot.
However, it's what comes after detection that puts Dr. McCollum and other dentists in a position you might not expect.
"We try to encourage them. This is what's going on, you need to make some lifetime decisions about this, so yeah, we do in a way have a heart-to-heart with them. We would be allowed to possibly catch things earlier and get them treatment that they wouldn't be aware of if they never went to the dentist so yes, in a way, you could save someone's life," Dr. McCollum said.
Dr. McCollum told News 2 that he's performed $20,000 worth of dental work in one patient all because of chewing tobacco.
Eventually, he had to give the patient several teeth implants.
On the other hand, after all his talks and encouragement, Dr. McCollum has patients who quit dipping and chewing habits for good.
The dentist also told News 2 that it's actually a harder habit to quit than cigarettes because there's a higher level of nicotine and it goes directly into the bloodstream.
WFMY News 2