E-cigarettes have grown in popularity. Even though vaping may seem like a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, these aerosol-producing pens, mods, and systems can still cause serious oral health issues. Whether you or a loved one vapes, look at what you need to know about e-cigarettes and how they can affect your mouth.
What does science have to say about vaping and oral health? As a newer form of smoking, research on the subject is still ongoing. Unlike the effects of tobacco-containing cigarettes, which have decades’ worth of research to back them up, the results of e-cigarette use are still somewhat unknown.
Even though research on vaping is still in its infancy, medical experts do agree that using any nicotine-containing product is unhealthy and dangerous. Current research into vaping does show that while it doesn’t have quite the same impact of using traditional tobacco-containing products, vaping comes with dental health risks. Read on to learn more about the potential problems that vaping can cause.
Oral Cancer Risk
Mouth cancers (cancers that occur on the lips or mostly anywhere in the mouth) have many different causes. Risk factors have traditionally included smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, using pipes or cigars, drinking large amounts of alcohol, exposing the body to the sun for large amounts of time, and getting the human papillomavirus.
However, along with regular cigarettes, smoking e-cigarettes can also put the user at an increased risk for oral cancers. The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health found that smokers who used non-cigarette products (including e-cigarettes) also had exposure to carcinogens.
Not only were non-cigarette users at risk, but the levels of carcinogens they had exposure to were often comparable to those of exclusive cigarette smokers. Exposure to carcinogens, such as those in cigarettes and e-cigarettes, can lead to cancers of the mouth.
Along with raising the risk of developing oral cancer, e-cigarette use can lead to serious gum problems. Research published in Oncotarget found that e-cigarette use can contribute to gum tissue cell damage.
If you think that this type of damage is less than what a tobacco-containing cigarette would cause, think again. Nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapors have comparable gum-damaging properties as the traditional type of cigarette.
The gum cell damage that vaping can cause puts the user at an increased risk for periodontal infections. Periodontitis — a serious infection of the gum — destroys the soft tissue, potentially causing gum recession, tooth loss, or systemic infections.
Catching periodontal disease early is essential. A dentist’s diagnosis is necessary, as well as professional-level treatment. While stopping e-smoking can prevent future damage, this won’t reverse existing effects.
In some cases, depending on the extent of the gum damage, routine cleanings and care may promote gingival healing. Extensive damage may require root planning and scaling, gum flap surgery, or other similar treatments.
While vaping itself doesn’t cause oral infections, it can reduce blood flow to the mouth area. Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes also contain nicotine. Even though nicotine doesn’t contain teeth-staining tobacco, the nicotine ingredient can negatively impact the user’s body.
Nicotine’s effects on blood vessels can cause problems throughout the body. Along with potentially causing cardiac issues, the restricted blood flow to the mouth can make the area more susceptible to infections.
If the user isn’t willing to stop smoking e-cigarettes, the increased risk for infection requires proper routine dental care — including at-home care and regular dental visits. While this won’t eliminate the risk, this can help to reduce the likelihood of a bacterial invasion.
Do you vape? Does your teen, spouse, or loved one use e-cigarettes? If you or someone you love vapes, you need professional dental care to prevent or reverse damage. Contact Kenneth M. Schweizer, DDS, PA, for more information.