Roughly one in every 20 Americans uses a vaping device, according to a 2018 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. With more than half of those users under the age of 35.
The good news is traditional cigarette use has declined over the past several years. But the bad news is that’s mostly because smokers have swapped their Marlboros and Newports for a vaping pen, also called an e-cigarette. Unfortunately, many believe that vaping is better for you than cigarettes. It’s not!
While vaping may technically be less harmful than smoking, it still isn’t safe – not for your heart and lungs, and especially not for your oral health. Vaping affects your oral health much the same way cigarette smoking does.
What Is Vaping?
Before we go into the effect vaping has on your teeth and oral health, let’s first discuss what vaping is and how it differs from regular cigarettes.
Vaping is an umbrella term that encompasses a whole realm of devices, including vape pens, tanks, mods, and electronic cigarettes. Instead of smoke, it uses aerosolized vapor that is created via a heating element that vaporizes liquid. The liquid, or vapor, is made up of nicotine and toxic chemicals.
Most vaping devices have a rechargeable base and use disposable cartridges that contain the liquid. The e-liquids tend to be flavored, which has only enhanced its appeal to the younger age groups.
Although there is no tobacco in e-cigarettes, the chemicals in vape pens still damage the body and mouth much the same way tobacco and smoke in cigarettes do.
Vaping and Oral Health
If you ever smoked, your dentist probably got onto you once or twice (or too many times to count) to quit. The stains cigarette smoking leaves on your teeth and the not-so-fresh breath it leaves behind is a dead giveaway that you’re a smoker, and not just to your dentist. Vaping may have eliminated those vanity issues, but it didn’t stop the serious damage to your overall oral health.
Nicotine leads to Gum Disease
Like cigarettes, vape pens and e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine doesn’t do your mouth any favors. When inhaled and introduced to your body, nicotine restricts blood flow to all areas of your body and mouth, including your gums. Your gums are living tissue that requires nutrients and oxygen to stay healthy and strong.
When blood and oxygen are restricted, your gum tissue begins to die, leading to gum disease. Gum disease, whether nicotine related or not, can contribute to a whole host of other serious diseases and issues, including:
- Loss of teeth
- Receding gums
- Irritated, red, or bleeding gums
- Chronic bad breath or halitosis
- Swollen or tender gums
In addition to depleting your gum’s nutrients, nicotine also affects your mouth’s ability to fight off infections. This only increases your risk for gum disease.
Vape Chemicals Damage Tooth Enamel
One of the main ingredients in vaping liquid is propylene glycol (PG). PG is a colorless liquid that, when used orally, breaks down into acetic acid, lactic acid, and propionaldehyde. These are all acids that wreak havoc on your tooth enamel.
Enamel is the outer covering of your tooth. It’s the hardest tissue in the body, and it helps to protect the inner, more fragile areas of your teeth, known as dentin and pulp. When these acids cause the enamel on your teeth to break down, your teeth are left susceptible to damage and tooth decay.
Furthermore, the ingredient PG has been known to cause dry mouth, only accelerating tooth decay. Dry mouth leaves you unable to produce healthy saliva that contains compounds that help to protect your teeth and flush your mouth of harmful bacteria. Individuals often try to combat dry mouth by drinking liquids such as soda or other sugary drinks. Unfortunately, this only compounds the damage as the sugar in the drinks feed the bacteria and acid already in the mouth.
Vaping Is Not A Healthy Cigarette Alternative
No matter what people say, vaping is NOT good for you. There are many unknowns about vaping and its long-term effects. What we do know is that nicotine is toxic and highly addicting. In addition, vaping affects your oral health, and studies have found a link between e-cigarettes and asthma and chronic lung disease as well as cardiovascular disease.
If you have concerns about vaping and its side effects, schedule an appointment with your local dentist. If you smoke, traditional or e-cigarettes, make sure you’re having routine cleanings. Regular oral screenings can help detect early signs of tooth decay or other types of dental issues.
When you combine the oral health risks along with the overall health risks of vaping, it just isn’t worth it. So save your smile and your health, eliminate smoking from your life altogether.