Is Vaping Bad For Your Teeth?
Over the last couple of years, vaping has surged in popularity. According to a study by the FDA, as of 2018, 20% of US high school students were using e-cigarettes – up from 1.5% in 2011. Unfortunately, this trend was also noted amongst middle school students, with 5% of them reported to be using e-cigarettes.
But did you know that vaping affects your dental health? For starters, vaping accelerates tooth decay and weakens your enamel. For this, it is important to visit your dentist regularly to stay on top of your health.
In this article, we explore the effects of vaping on your oral health as well as what to do to maintain optimal oral health.
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What is vaping?
Vaping is the process of inhaling and exhaling aerosol which is created by the vaping device. It was first introduced in the United States back in 2007, when electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigs, EC or vapes were introduced.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered. These batteries power up the atomizer, which heats up the liquid in the EC cartridge known as e-liquid to produce aerosol/vapour.
This liquid contains a mix of water, flavouring, choice of nicotine levels, cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and glycerine as a humectant that results in the aerosol produced, mimicking cigarette smoke.
Is vaping the same as smoking cigarettes?
By now, it is common knowledge that smoking can have adverse effects on your oral health. It causes gum disease, stains your teeth and is one of the leading causes of oral cancer. Vaping, on the other hand, has been deemed safer and less harmful than traditional cigarettes. However, studies have found that vaping can just be as harmful to your dental health as smoking cigarettes.
Effects of vaping on your oral health
While most people still believe that vaping isn’t as harmful to oral health as smoking real cigarettes, this may not be the case. Smoking e-cigarettes can harm your teeth and overall oral health. While more research needs to be done to understand both the short- and long-term effects of vaping on oral health, we know the following to be true.
When you smoke e-cigarettes they release formaldehyde(1), which affects the upper part of the throat, which is located behind the nose.
Also, the aerosol or vapour that users inhale contains nicotine, refined particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, chemicals linked to lung diseases, cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals such as tin, lead, and nickel as well as a volatile organic compound.
Here are some of the most common effects of vaping on your oral health:
Excessive exposure to e-cigarette aerosol leads to more bacteria buildup in the mouth. This bacteria is associated with cavities, gum disease and tooth decay.
The flavoured capsule in e-cigarettes is vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavouring. Vegetable glycerine is high in sugars, which when added to flavourings, increases microbial adhesion to the enamel and biofilm formation. These features cause the tooth enamel to soften, leaving your teeth susceptible to a variety of cavity-causing bacteria and tooth decay.
Vaping is also responsible for the disruption of healthy cell function. It prevents cells from dividing and growing, so they end up ageing and dying. As a result, you may notice an increase in oral health concerns.
Nicotine is a stimulant. It acts as a muscle stimulant that causes you to grind or clench your teeth. This condition is known as bruxism. Bruxism can cause tooth wear, headaches, jaw pain and is a risk factor for bone loss around your teeth.
Although the amount of nicotine in vaping devices is notably lower than in traditional cigarettes, it is still harmful to your gum tissue. Nicotine affects blood flow to the gum tissues, decreases tissue turnover and impacts cell function.
When the gum tissue is damaged, your chances of getting gum disease and tooth loss increase.
The nicotine found in vaping reduces the amount of saliva flowing in your mouth. Vapes also contain glycol and propylene which absorb the moisture in your mouth causing your tissues and tooth surfaces to dry out. A dry mouth leads to an increase in plaque, bacteria and tooth decay. It also increases your risk of developing gum disease.
Vaping machines are powered by lithium batteries. Although rare, these batteries can overheat, causing your vaping device to explode. These explosions can cause damage to your oral tissues leading to painful mouth sores.
How to limit vaping side effects
The best thing you can do to limit the side effects of vaping is to quit. That said, we understand that it is easier said than done. So as you try to kick this habit, it’s important that you are extremely diligent in taking care of your teeth. Here are some things you can do to limit the effects of vaping on your oral health:
- Choose low-nicotine or nicotine-free e-juices
- Floss every day to keep your gums healthy
- Drink water after you vape to avoid dry mouth and bad breath
- Visit your dentist every six months so any concerns can be identified early
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day to remove plaque, which helps to keep cavities at bay and prompt overall gum health. Wait at least 20 minutes after vaping to brush so that brushing does not weaken your enamel further
When to visit a dentist
Schedule a dental appointment with your dentist before your regular dental exam and cleaning if you experience any of these concerns:
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Mouth pain
- Frequent dry mouth
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Mouth sores that aren’t healing
- White spots on your teeth. This is a sign of decalcification
- White patches on your tongue or mouth, which is a sign of thrush
- Changes to your tooth sensitivity, especially to temperatures
Although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, vaping poses health hazards similar to tobacco smoking. In saying that, more research and studies are required to know the true long term effects of vaping on your overall health, not just oral health. If you can’t stop vaping immediately, it is important that you maintain proper oral hygiene. This includes having regular dental checkups and following proper oral and dental care.
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