Electronic cigarettes – also known as e-cigarettes – have experienced an increase in popularity in the past decade as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, with the practice of “vaping” being seen as more socially acceptable in public than normal smoking. While regular cigarettes produce smoke and emit harmful chemicals into the air, electronic cigarettes are entirely smokeless and powered through batteries; instead the e-cigarette houses an internal heating component where the nicotine and other additional flavorings are stored, and the nicotine is converted into vapor, hence the term “vaping.” Vapes and e-cigarettes are even being regularly sold in kiosks and convenience stores, removing the stigma associated with smoking.
But, are they really a safer option when it comes to oral healthcare? Most people know, smoking cigarettes is bad for the health of your teeth, gums and mouth in general. Are electronic cigarettes better, or do they possess even greater risks for users?
Does Vaping Harm Oral Health?
The Bright Side
Believe it or not, there are actually some positive dental benefits for vaping as a practice since e-cigarettes help eliminate a few of the side effects found in traditional smokers, such as tooth discoloration/staining, plaque buildup, and bad breath. However, most research in vaping is still relatively new and what has been found isn’t a great sign for regular vapers.
What’s The Damage?
Since vaping still usually involves directly inhaling nicotine, vapers run the sames risks for the drug’s harmful effects. Essentially, nicotine is what is known as a vasoconstrictor compound, meaning that it constricts the blood vessels and significantly reduces blood flow; this restricts the access of nutrients that can be delivered to the mouth’s soft tissues, thereby reducing the ability to effectively fight off and heal from bacteria.
Research has shown that vaping also greatly increases risks for developing periodontal diseases (Periodontal is defined as the specialty of dentistry that is related to or affecting the tissues and supportive structures of the teeth). Some common signs and symptoms found include:
- persistent bad breath (halitosis),
- wobbly or loose teeth
- teeth decay
- recession in gum tissue
- swelling or bleeding in gums
- increased tenderness, redness, or irritation in the gum area
If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss and permanent damage as well as additional health complications. Studies have shown that the flavoring found in e-cigarettes provided an additional risk in causing added damage for cells. Researchers at the University of North Carolina also found that e-cigarettes produce a similar if not worse suppression for key genes in the nasal passage and respiratory system that provides immunity for disease. This is in addition to the traditional health issues found in smoking regular cigarettes.
Worth The Risk?
It is obviously a personal choice whether you decide to participate in the e-cigarette trend or not. It can be a conversation starter, a way for bonding with people at social gathering, or just a more publicly acceptable manner for indulging in a particular habit. Although it has gathered a measure of respectability, it’s important to note that even though the FDA may have approved e-cigarettes as being safe for consumers, research regarding vaping and its effects is still in its infancy, and the practice can cause just as much permanent damage as traditional smoking.
The Final Word
It’s vital that if you are a regular smoker, e-cigarette or otherwise, that you schedule regular checkups with a dental health professional to check for any signs of damage, as well as potentially discuss possible methods for curbing nicotine addiction if needed. Cirocco Dental Center offers a variety of dental services including periodic cleanings for every patient specially tailored for your teeth’s individual needs.