The use of smokeless tobacco (ST) products, such as snuff and chewing tobacco, was investigated in a school population of 565 males with a mean age of 13.8 years. All students completed a tobacco usage questionnaire and were given intraoral examinations by a team of dentists to determine the possible relationship of ST usage to the presence of gingivitis, gingival recession, mucosal pathology and caries. The overall prevalence of ST usage was 13.3%, which was much higher than the 1.4% prevalence of cigarette smoking. Pairwise chi square analysis revealed that there was no relationship between ST usage and the prevalence of gingivitis, but that the prevalence of gingival recession was significantly elevated in ST users, P less than 0.001. The odds of having gingival recession were 9 times greater in the students using smokeless tobacco as compared to healthy, non-user cohorts. ST usage did not affect the prevalence of gingival recession in students without gingivitis. The frequency of occurrence of soft tissue pathology was significantly elevated, about 6-fold in students who used smokeless tobacco, as compared to non-users, P less than 0.01. This was principally due to the increased prevalence of white mucosal lesions in smokeless tobacco users. However, there was no attributable risk for mucosal pathology in ST users who were free of gingivitis. Similarly, the use of smokeless tobacco was associated with a 1.6-fold elevation in mean DMF in students with gingivitis, P less than 0.001, but this increase in caries experience was not seen in ST users who were free of gingivitis. In summary, in students with clean mouths that were free of gingivitis, the use of smokeless tobacco was not associated with a change in the prevalence of gingival recession, mucosal pathology, or in the mean DMF score. In contrast, smokeless tobacco usage was a significant risk factor in individuals with co-existing gingivitis, associated with a marked increase in the prevalence of gingival recession, mucosal pathology and caries experience.