Vaping is often presented as a “healthier” alternative to smoking and a way to help folks quit tobacco use. But as e-cigarettes rise in popularity, especially in young people, we’re learning more about their health risks, including significant risks to oral health. Some of the health risks linked to vaping include damage to brain development and respiratory health. Like tobacco products, they’re bad for your teeth and gums. And according to many health professionals, it’s even worse than we think.
How Do E-Cigarettes Work?
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarettes create an aerosol by using a battery to heat a liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. Vapers inhale this aerosol into their lungs. Of course, those chemicals also pass through your mouth, leaving traces on your teeth and gums.
What Risks Does Vaping Present To Oral Health?
According to a 2020 study in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology, research confirms that e-cigarettes create risks for gum and teeth health. Vaping also changes the “oral microbiome,” the balance of bacteria in your mouth.
In their article in Perio-Implant Advisory, Dr. Scott Froum and Dr. Alisa Neymark show us some of the ways that vaping can be dangerous for oral health– potentially even riskier than smoking. Here’s a look at some of the reasons e-cigarettes are harmful to your teeth and gums:
- Propylene Glycol, the colorless liquid is known as PG, is the basis of e-liquid in vapes. PG breaks down into acids and chemicals that are toxic to enamel and soft tissue. It also causes dry mouth by removing water molecules in your saliva and mouth tissue. When you have less saliva, it leads to greater chances of tooth decay and gum disease. When vapers try to quench their e-cigarette thirst with sugary drinks, it can cause even worse oral health problems.
- Flavorings are one of the elements that make vaping appealing, especially to young people. Mint, fruit, candy, and other “fun” flavors attract young users. They also contain sugar-like ingredients that impact oral health. A 2018 study in the journal Plos One showed that aerosols generated from e-liquids with sweet flavors quadruple the levels of microbes sticking to tooth enamel. Some of the compounds in e-liquids also contribute to the demineralization of enamel, the study showed. Essentially, because of those sweet flavorings, vape aerosols have similar properties to sugary candies and acidic sodas.
- Nicotine: even though vapes have a much lower nicotine concentration than traditional tobacco products, the levels in e-cigarettes are high enough to cause damage. Nicotine limits blood flow to the gums and decreases immune cell function. According to the Perio-Implant Advisory article, vaping leads to a “much higher chance of developing gum disease and tooth loss.”
- Batteries: Remember: when you use a vape pen, you are placing a lithium battery right next to your face. E-cigarette batteries can overheat and explode, causing burns to the mouth.
Is Vaping A Problem? Your Family Dentist Can Help
One of our biggest concerns about vaping is the alarming rise in use by tweens and teens. For kids, vaping is not a way to quit tobacco use but a dangerous new habit with many health impacts. According to the Surgeon General’s office, use by middle and high schoolers rose dramatically between 2011 and 2018, with 19 percent of girls and 23 percent of boys in the U.S. using vapes in the most recent survey.
At Hall Family Dentistry, we’ve seen firsthand the damage vaping can do to oral health, both in young people and older adults. Our team offers a judgment-free space for tobacco users and vapers who want to kick the habit. There are safe ways to stop smoking and vaping. Don’t avoid checkups, even if you’re struggling to quit. Working together, we can get on a solid path to excellent oral and overall health.