Smoking e-cigarettes, otherwise known as vaping, is the latest rage with both traditional tobacco smokers and non-smokers today. E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that “vaporize” or convert nicotine, liquid chemicals, flavorings and other additives into a vapor which is inhaled.
E-cigarettes are very popular as they are marketed as “a safe alternative” to smoking, but the reality of the safety of these devices is that there has been no real research on the long term health effects of vaping, so no one is actually sure just how safe vaping really is. The following is what we do know about vaping and how it affects oral health at this point.
The real enemy here is nicotine. E-cigarettes contain nicotine which is a highly addicting chemical and is currently the most common form of chemical dependence in the U.S. Although the amount of nicotine in an e-cigarette is less than a regular cigarette and can actually be controlled by the user, nicotine can still harm your teeth and gums and may contribute to gingivitis, dry mouth and gum disease, as proven by regular cigarette smokers.
Nicotine creates many oral health problems including gum recession because it is a vasoconstrictor reducing the amount of blood flowing through your veins and resulting in less oxygen and nutrients going to your gums, which causes the gum tissue to die.
E-cigarette users who already had gum disease are claiming that their disease is improving after they started vaping. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as it is the nicotine they are inhaling that masks the signs of gum disease by restricting the blood flow to the gums. Dentists recognize gum disease by observing swollen, irritated and bleeding gums. Hiding those symptoms does not cure the disease and can prevent proper diagnosis and treatment.
Nicotine as a vasoconstrictor and the vacuum created in the mouth by the vaporizing both inhibit the body’s ability to produce saliva. Saliva is necessary to help rid the mouth and teeth of bacteria and with a reduced amount can lead to dry mouth, bacteria buildup and tooth decay – all the necessary ingredients for bad breath.
Also, if you are a teeth grinder, nicotine can cause you to grind more intensely and may cause non-grinders to start since it is a stimulant.
Public use of e-cigarettes is currently not regulated by the FDA and they are used by millions of Americans. Vaping by middle and high school students who previously had not used a tobacco product has tripled since 2011. The bottom line on vaping is that while it is perceived as safe by most users, there is no scientific evidence to support their safety.
If you are an E-cigarette user, discuss this with Dr. Finlay or Dr. Lim during your next visit. Understanding your risk factors for periodontal disease or any type of dental problem can help them to better monitor your teeth and gums for early warning signs.
Drs. Finlay and Lim can offer encouragement for quitting a smoking habit and discuss the long term health benefits, including a whiter, healthier smile!