Is Vaping Bad for Your Teeth?
Research is discovering that not only is vaping bad for your respiratory health but it also has negative effects on your oral health and it speeds up tooth decay.
Although vaping (e-cigarettes in particular) was once considered a safer alternative to traditional tobacco use and helpful for quitting tobacco, there has been a surge of health incidents recently from lung illnesses, to seizures, and even deaths that has made the health community and the FDA now reconsider the safety of vaping. In addition to the serious respiratory and heart concerns, vaping is also bad for your teeth and oral health.
What is Vaping?
Vaping involves inhaling and exhaling vapor (the aerosol) created by a vaping device. Some vaping devices look like smoked cigarettes (hence the name e-cigarettes), but others known as vape pens can look like a fountain pen. In 2015, Juul was founded by two former smokers, and they introduced a USB-sized device intended for adults but is favored by middle and high school students because of its ability to be hidden easily. Today, there are vaping devices that resemble a smart watch, hoodies, or other innocuous items to fool parents and school officials.
Regardless of its form, vaping devices all contain a mouthpiece, battery, cartridge for the e-liquid and a heating component. When used, the battery fuels the heating component and turns the e-liquid into an aerosol that’s then inhaled and exhaled by the user. The liquid contains nicotine or THC (the active component in marijuana), flavoring and other chemicals. Some believe the toxic chemicals that make up the particles in the e-liquid are at the root of the unexplained respiratory issues since they have been linked to cancer as well as heart and respiratory disease.
Troubling Trend: Patients Who Vape Have More Tooth Decay
Many dentists are noticing a troubling trend: Patients who use vaping devices are also experiencing significant tooth decay and tooth enamel erosion. A New York-based periodontist, made a conne
Scott Froum, D.D.S., decided to dig into the research regarding the correlation between vaping and your oral health after he realized that several of his patients with increased decay also vaped. Dr. Froum published his results in Perio-Implant Advisory. Although more research needs to be done to define a direct correlation between vaping and tooth decay, the anecdotal evidence is strong.
One of Dr. Froum’s patients had used e-cigarettes for five years, switching to them as a tool to help quit smoking traditional tobacco products. The young man was smoking a cartridge a day-approximately equal to a pack of traditional cigarettes or 200 puffs-as a result of a dry mouth from the e-cigarette he would drink high-sugar energy drinks to combat the dryness. Ultimately, this patient experienced serious tooth decay and tooth loss as well as enamel wear.
Another patient who had been cavity-free for 35 years switched from traditional to e-cigarettes. Within a year of vaping, the enamel on his teeth began to soften and increased his risk of cavities.
Since vaping is still relatively new, research and reports on the long-term effects of vaping on general and oral health are still being done. At this point, dental professionals are still trying to determine how bad the problem with vaping really is; however, from the evidence currently available and what most dental professionals are seeing in their practices, it is likely not the best thing you can do to preserve your smile.
Why Does Vaping Harm Teeth and Oral Health?
Some of the ingredients included in the e-liquid are known to have negative effects on your oral health. The first is propylene glycol (PG), a viscous, colorless carrier product that when used orally, breaks down into acetic acid, lactic acid and propionaldehyde-all of which are toxic to soft tissue and tooth enamel. Since water molecules in the saliva and oral tissue will bond to PG, people then suffer from “dry mouth” (xerostomia). Consistent dry mouth leads to oral health problems including thrush, burning mouth syndrome as well as leaving plaque and bacteria to build up at the base of your teeth and gums which results in tooth decay, bad breath, mouth sores and gum disease.
The vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavorings in e-liquid also lead to oral health concerns. Even though vegetable glycerin is 60 percent as sweet as sucrose, it’s not thought to cause cavities because it is not metabolized by cariogenic bacteria. However, when VG and flavorings combine there is a fourfold increase in microbial adhesion to the enamel and two-time increase in biofilm formation. The flavorings also cause the enamel to weaken. Ultimately, e-liquid makes it easier for cavity-causing bacteria to stick to teeth that have been softened. This situation leads to rampant decay.
Even though the level of nicotine, the addictive drug that is naturally found in tobacco in vaping devices is typically lower than traditional tobacco products, it’s still harmful especially to gum tissue. Nicotine affects blood flow to gum tissue, impacts cell function, and decreases tissue turnover. The damage to gum tissue increases the chance of gum disease and tooth loss. Nicotine can also stain teeth.
In another review, Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes, it was suggested that vaping aerosols could increase inflammation and DNA damage. When cells aren’t able to divide and grow due to damage, it can cause them to age or die, and therefore increase oral health concerns.
Finally, explosions of vaping devices, usually caused by the lithium batteries overheating, can damage oral tissue. The estimated number of vape explosions and burn injuries isn’t entirely clear since many go unreported. Some experts believe the true number is 40 times the initial estimate by the U.S. government. No matter the actual number, the threat of a vape explosion causing oral tissue damage is real.
The Vaping “Epidemic”
While 4.04 million high school students and 840,000 middle school students use any tobacco products, the most commonly used tobacco product by kids in 2018 was e-cigarettes. This represents a dramatic increase between 2017-2018-by 78 percent amongst high school students and 49 percent among middle school students. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
The increased use of vaping by teens caused the United States FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb to call vaping an epidemic and subsequently there has been a lot of pressure on the industry. Prompted by enticing flavors such as creme brulee and fruit medley, peer pressure and the misconception that vaping is healthier than traditional smoking, teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes. In March 2019, the FDA restricted the sale of most flavored tobacco products at convenience stores and gas stations, San Francisco banned e-cigarettes in June and Walmart has decided to stop selling e-cigarettes citing regulatory uncertainty around the products after vaping-related deaths.
Minimize the Dental Side Effects from Vaping
The best thing you can do to preserve your smile if you continue to vape is to take steps to kick the habit. However, until you succeed, it’s imperative that you take your oral hygiene seriously to limit the damage. Here are some things to do to reduce your risk of vaping-related dental issues:
- Choose low-nicotine or nicotine-free e-juices.
- Drink water after you vape. Staying hydrated is very important.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste. You should brush at least two times a day. Be sure you wait at least 20 minutes after vaping to brush so that brushing won’t weaken the enamel further.
- Floss every day to keep your gums healthy.
- See the dentist every four to six months. This allows your dental professional the opportunity to detect any issues as soon as possible.
When to See the Dentist
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)
While there is more research to be done regarding the direct correlation between vaping and your oral health, there’s still enough evidence to suggest that it is problematic and requires patients who vape to be diligent about their dental and oral health. Schedule your appointment today at one of our convenient Monarch Dental locations.