Despite all the negative press about e-cigarettes recently – such as how they can explode in your mouth and put you at risk of developing a rare form of pneumonia – inhaling flavorsome fumes from something that looks like a USB device still seems to be a very fashionable thing to do.
And while the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are not well understood yet, there is growing research to suggest that vaping is far from being a safe or healthy alternative to smoking.
But how does vaping affect your teeth and gums?
First, let’s take a look at how vaping works: essentially by heating a liquid to generate a vapor that you inhale. The liquid in the e-cigarette is usually made up of propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, water, and nicotine. Spot the harmful ingredients? Check out our article, “Toxic Ingredients in your Toothpaste”, for more info on the detrimental effects of propylene glycol and glycerin.
Let’s see what the dental experts say about oral health issues related to vaping:
Dental expert and spokesperson for the American Dental Association, Dr. Matthew Messina, says: “We’re providing heat in the mouth, which changes the bacterial presence in the mouth. It dries the mouth out.”
Dr. Messina explains that increased temperature in the mouth becomes a favorable environment for harmful bacteria. This change in the oral microbiome increases the risk of inflammation and infection.
He adds that vaping can also lead to tooth decay, bone loss, and inflamed gum tissue.
When it comes to teeth staining, nicotine is the main culprit. The thing with vaping, however, is that you can choose how much nicotine you’re using. So the more nicotine you choose to use, the more susceptible you are to staining those pearly whites.
“Nicotine will stain teeth. It also sticks to the enamel and makes it rougher, so that plaque and other colored things will stick more readily and build up.”Dr. Messina
Inflamed and irritated gums
Deepak Saxena, Ph.D. and associate professor at NYU College of Dentistry, says:
“Vaping electronic cigarettes causes shifts in the oral environment and highly influences the colonization of complex microbial biofilms, which raises the risk of oral inflammation and infection.”
As we know, ongoing gum inflammation is associated with periodontal disease. A 2014 study, which determined the oral health effects of e-cigarettes, reported that vaping can cause mouth and throat irritation. Symptoms include tenderness and swelling of the gums.
So, are e-cigs better for your oral health than normal cigarettes?
The short answer is: no, probably not. Dr. Messina points out:
“It’s important to stress the fact that while vaping is new and is being actively studied, we have to consider vaping and cigarette smoking relatively the same, as far as the effects on the teeth and gum tissues.”
And that’s because there’s still increased heat in the mouth. Dr. Messina continues, “the rate of tooth decay increases, sometimes dramatically, if we dry the mouth out.”
While the safety and long term health effects of using e-cigarettes still aren’t well known, one thing is for sure, they are without a doubt extremely detrimental to your oral health. And according to Dr. Messina: “To say vaping is a safe alternative to cigarette smoking isn’t a true statement.”
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