January 15 to the 21 marks National Non-Smoking week, which has been observed for more than 37 years. 
 
gerry coolGerry Cool. Photo submitted.National Non-Smoking week is to educate Canadians on the dangers of smoking, to help people quit and assist in creating a smoke-free society. 
 
Dental Hygienists are in a perfect position to help educate individuals on the dangers of smoking and the impact it has, not only on oral health, but with overall health. 
 
"The heat from the smoke impacts the oral tissues because it changes the cells, it dries the mouth out and reduces the saliva flow, but it does physically alter the cells in the oral cavity," stated Gerry Cool, President of the Canadia Dental Hygienists Association. 
 
"In it's early stages, that's when dentists and dental hygienists come into play because as part of our screening process and our examination, we're checking the oral cavity," added Cool. "Detected early it can be treated, but if it's not and it's ignored it can be really bad. The thing is it's not just smoking, but it's chewing tobacco as well."
 
Unfortunately, oral cancer can happen in all age groups. 
 
"Young children who are chewing tobacco all the way up to elderly gentlemen. When the cancer spreads, it then impacts the supporting bone structures. People have lost part of their jaws or ultimately, you could lose your life," expressed Cool. 
 
Although we should all be making our regular two trips to the dentist, there are also some signs we can look for at home to due with detecting oral cancer. 
 
"We should all be looking at our tongue, under our tongue and looking at our cheeks on a regular basis. The minute you see anything that looks different or suspicious, you get in to see a hygienist," outlined Cool. "If your dental hygienist is not doing an oral screening, ask. That's something that is everyone's responsibility."
 
Most who try to quit smoking take baby steps, and those steps usually include using a E-Cigarette. 
 
"That's a whole other ball game that really we don't have a lot of research on yet. Vaping releases a lot of chemicals into the oral environment as well," mentioned Cool. 
 
 

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