But Vaping is SO Much Better… Right?
Vaporizing, or “vaping” tobacco products, have become a hot trend in the last 15 years, especially among young people. In fact, 16 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2015, compared to just 1.5 percent in 2011. Many people believe that vaping is safer than smoking conventional cigarettes, but it’s important to understand that e-liquids usually contain nicotine and other chemicals that affect the mouth and body – no matter the delivery route.
What is an e-cigarette? E-cigarettes are battery-powered, handheld devices that typically contain a heating element and a cartridge that holds “e-liquid.” This liquid usually contains nicotine and other chemicals. When the user inhales on the e-cigarette, the heating element vaporizes the liquid and delivers vapor into the user’s mouth and lungs.
What is e-liquid? Although e-liquids typically contain nicotine, they don’t always. E-liquids also usually contain vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and (often sweet) natural or artificial flavoring.
Effects on Oral Health The oral health effects of vaping vary by individual, frequency of use, and the type of e-cigarette/e-liquid used. E-cigarettes are relatively new to the market, so the long-term effects of vaping on oral and overall health are still unknown, but the preliminary findings suggest that e-cigs can be just as harmful as tobacco to oral health. A recent study published in Oncotarget found that the chemicals used in most e-cigs were equally damaging to cells in the mouth as traditional tobacco smoke, and may contribute to gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancer.
As with traditional cigarettes, the aerosol/vapor in e-cigarettes contact the oral cavity when the vapor is the hottest, which can irritate and cause damage to sensitive gum tissue.
Regardless of how it is delivered, nicotine negatively affects oral health. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow to tissues, which can inhibit the tissue’s ability to repair itself.
Other Concerns and Considerations E-cigarettes are gaining popularity every day. Teens who try e-cigarettes that contain nicotine are more likely to use traditional cigarettes later in life, which suggests that e-cigs are the new “gateway drug” into long-term tobacco use. Additionally, the metal components in some e-cigs may leak potentially harmful-when-ingested metals into a user’s system, including lead, chromium and nickel.
The Bottom Line If you use tobacco in any form, it is essential to visit your dentist for a thorough oral cancer screening at the very minimum once a year.
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