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Missions baseball game takes oral health twist (5/28/98)

The San Antonio Missions' baseball game at Wolff Stadium Monday night, June 1, will have a health emphasis, thanks to the National Spit Tobacco Education Program and faculty from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

To raise public awareness of the dangers of smokeless tobacco, including chewing tobacco, the organization will hand out literature and pledge cards inviting visitors to stop using the products.

Health Science Center Dental School alumnus Dr. Roger Macias, who is the team dentist for the Missions, notes that minor league players are banned from using smokeless tobacco on the field during games, unlike their major league counterparts. "This provides a better role model for the many young people who attend our games," he said.

Although candy cigarettes are no longer popular, many parents and youngsters have seen other products aimed at youngsters, such as bubble gum that is shredded in pouches or comes in cans similar to chewing tobacco cans.

"The two most common questions that users ask are 'How can I quit?' and 'Where do I go to be examined for signs of oral cancer?" said Becky DeSpain, Texas coordinator for the National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP). Many users have heard about the health risks associated with spit tobacco.

"Nicotine is an addictive drug and users often can't quit just because they want to," said Dr. Kenneth Vogtsberger, head of the Health Science Center's substance abuse division in psychiatry. "Users need strategies such as how to handle internal and external triggers that cause cravings for nicotine."

"The best person to see if you do or don't think you have oral cancer is your general dentist because he or she is trained in dental school to look for oral cancer," added Dr. Dan Jones, associate professor of community dentistry. "If the general dentist sees anything suspicious, he or she will refer to an oral surgeon or head and neck surgeon."

According to NSTEP, 30,000 new oral cancer diagnoses are made annually nationwide. About 8,000 people die every year from this disease and the survival rate is very poor campared to other cancers. Only about half of those diagnosed with oral cancer are alive in five years.

Contact: Myong Covert (210) 567-2570