Why is Vaping Bad for Your Teeth?
Vaping e-cigarettes has long term effects on your teeth and overall oral health. Visit your dentists to make sure you maintain your oral health.
You’ve probably seen the headlines about vaping. There have been serious heart and respiratory issues-and even deaths-that are believed to be caused by vaping. E-cigarettes, one form of vaping, were originally seen as a valuable-and safe-aid to help adult smokers quit traditional cigarettes. Now, the FDA and the health community are raising concerns regarding vaping’s safety. But there’s another negative consequence to vaping-damage to your teeth and overall oral health.
Basics of Vaping
There are several different vaping devices available, but regardless of the device used, vaping involves inhaling and exhaling the aerosol (vapor) created by the device. The original vaping device looked like a cigarette (e-cigarette), but today one of the most common vaping devices looks like a pen. The vaping devices most popular with middle and high school students, because they are easy to hide from parents and school officials, are the USB-sized devices first introduced by Juul in 2015. There are many other vaping devices available today including some that look like smartwatches, hoodies and other typical teenage items.
Every vaping device, no matter what shape it takes, contains a heating component, battery, cartridge to hold the e-liquid and mouthpiece. The aerosol that vapers inhale and exhale is made when the battery heats up the e-liquid. E-liquid contains flavorings, chemicals, nicotine or in some cases THC (the active component in Marijuana). Some experts believe it is very likely that the toxic chemicals in the e-liquid are the contributing factors to the unexplained respiratory issues in users. These same chemicals are known to cause heart and respiratory disease as well as cancer when people are exposed to them.
More Tooth Decay Experienced by Patients Who Vape
One patient switched to e-cigarettes to help him quit smoking traditional tobacco products. Because he experienced dry mouth from the e-cigarettes-a common issue-he would drink high-sugar energy drinks as well. He was smoking a cartridge a day-roughly equal to 200 puffs or a pack of traditional cigarettes-a day. This patient had significant tooth enamel wear and serious tooth decay.
After having no cavities for 35 years, another patient’s tooth enamel began to soften which increased his risk of cavities. This patient had switched from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes a year before.
As a result of seeing these and other patients with unexplained tooth decay and tooth enamel erosion and who also vaped, New York-based periodontist, Scott Froum, D.D.S., started to delve into the research about what vaping can do to your oral health.
Read about what he found in Perio-Implant Advisory. The anecdotal evidence that connects vaping with tooth decay is strong although more research needs to be done to define a direct correlation.
Research is still being conducted on the long-term effects of vaping on oral and general health. Vaping is relatively new, however, from what dental professionals are seeing in their practices and the evidence available to date, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that vaping does not help you protect your smile and oral health.
How Can Vaping Harm Oral Health and Your Teeth?
If you’re wondering how vapor could harm your teeth, let us explain. It’s the ingredients that are part of the e-liquid that turns into the vapor that have the negative impact on teeth and oral health. One of the ingredients is propylene glycol (PG), a colorless, viscous carrier product that breaks down into acetic acid, lactic acid and propionaldehyde. These are toxic to tooth enamel and soft tissue. Water molecules in saliva and oral tissue bond to PG, which leads to “dry mouth” (xerostomia) just like Dr. Froum’s patient suffered from. When people experience consistent dry mouth it can lead to oral health problems such as burning mouth syndrome and thrush. Dry mouth also causes plaque and bacteria to build up at the base of your teeth and gums. This causes bad breath, gum disease, mouth sores and tooth decay.
Another ingredient in e-liquid that can lead to oral health concerns is vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavorings. Vegetable glycerin is 60 percent as sweet as sucrose yet isn’t typically known to cause cavities because it isn’t metabolized by cariogenic bacteria. That all changes when VG and flavorings combine: There is a two-time increase in biofilm formation and a fourfold increase in microbial adhesion to enamel. The one-two punch of softened enamel and the e-liquid make it easier for cavity-causing bacteria to stick to teeth and lead to rampant decay.
Another culprit causing oral health issues in vapers is nicotine, the addictive drug that is naturally found in tobacco. While the amount of nicotine is typically lower in vaping devices than traditional tobacco products, it still causes harm to gum tissue because it alters blood flow to gum tissue, decreases tissue turnover and impacts cell function. This damage then increases the chance of gum disease and tooth loss as well as stains teeth.
It is believed that vaping aerosols can increase DNA damage and inflammation according to the Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes review. This is concerning to oral health because if cells are prevented from dividing and growing because they are damaged, they will age or die.
And finally, explosions of vaping devices, usually caused by the lithium batteries overheating, can damage oral tissue. Many of these instances go unreported, so there is not a clear number for how many vape explosions cause burns or other injuries. Some reports suggest the true number is 40 times the initial estimate by the U.S. government. Regardless of the actual number, a vape explosion can occur and can damage oral tissue.
Is Vaping an “Epidemic”?
Vaping, and mysterious illnesses presumed to be caused by vaping, is starting to be an epidemic. In fact, the use of vaping by teens caused Scott Gottlieb, the United States FDA commissioner to call it out as an epidemic. Out of the 840,000 middle school students and 4.04 million high school students who use tobacco products of any kind, the most commonly used tobacco product by kids in 2018 was e-cigarettes. The growth in recent years has been extraordinary-from 2017-2018 there was a 49 percent increase in use among middle school students and a 78 percent increase among high school students. It’s important to note that in the United States, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
Teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes. Teens are enticed by the flavors of vaping e-liquid that include fruit medley, creme brulee and other tantalizing tastes, succumb to peer pressure and have fallen victim to the misconception that vaping is healthier than traditional smoking. Due to the rising epidemic and pressure on the industry, in March 2019 the FDA restricted the sale of most flavored tobacco products at gas stations and most convenience stores, Walmart stopped selling e-cigarettes citing regulatory uncertainty about the products after vaping-related deaths and San Francisco banned e-cigarettes in June.
How to Reduce the Negative Consequences to Your Oral Health if You Vape
The first tip is to stop vaping or take steps to kick the habit. This can be challenging, so until you are able to succeed, it’s critical that you take your oral hygiene seriously. Reduce your risk of vaping-related dental issues by doing these things:
- Floss every day. This keeps your gums healthy.
- Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Wait at least 20 minutes after vaping to brush so that brushing won’t weaken the enamel further.
- Choose nicotine-free or low-nicotine e-juices.
- Rehydrate after vaping. Water is best.
- See the dentist every four to six months so your dental professional has the opportunity to spot any issues as soon as possible.
Get a Professional Dental Exam
Schedule an appointment before your regular cleaning and dental exam if you are experiencing any of these concerns:
- More frequent dry mouth
- Loose teeth
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Changes to your tooth sensitivity especially to temperature
- Mouth sores that aren’t healing
- Mouth pain
- Receding gums
- White spots on teeth (a sign of decalcifications)
- White patches on your mouth or tongue (a sign of thrush)
Even though more research is required before the dental community understands the full extent of how vaping damages oral health, we already know there are grave concerns. Anyone who vapes needs to take special care to take good care of their teeth. Schedule your appointment today at one of our convenient Bright Now! Dental locations.