What Does Vaping Do to Your Teeth?
Vaping e-cigarettes has become a nationwide epidemic, it also affects your Oral Health. It accelerates tooth decay and weakens your enamel; make sure to visit your dentist to stay on top of your health.
The news about vaping isn’t good. Even though vaping in the form of e-cigarettes was first introduced as a safe and helpful way to get adult smokers to quit their nicotine habit, there are now many more concerns about its safety. Many health issues from seizures to lung illnesses and even death have the FDA and the health community questioning vaping’s safety. What you might not be aware of is that vaping is also bad for your oral health and teeth in addition to its probable connection to serious heart and respiratory concerns.
Whether the vaping device looks like a cigarette (e-cigarette), fountain pen, a smart watch, a hoodie or other typical teenage “accessories,” vaping always involves inhaling and exhaling aerosol created by the vaping device. Although it wasn’t originally invented to fool parents and school officials, Juul, founded by two former smokers, started their business in 2015 and developed a USB-sized device that’s favored by teenagers because it’s ability to be discreet, or hidden easily.
Every vaping device has similar components that include the battery, cartridge for the e-liquid, mouthpiece, and battery. When activated, the battery runs the heating component. The heating component turns the e-liquid into an inhalable aerosol. The e-liquid has chemicals (some that appear to be toxic), flavoring, and either nicotine or THC (the active component in marijuana). It’s the toxic chemicals of the e-liquid that are believed to be at the root of unexplained respiratory issues among vapers since those same chemicals have been known to cause cancer as well as heart and respiratory disease in past cases.
More Tooth Decay Seen in Patients Who Vape
As vaping has grown in popularity, dentists have seen a rise in tooth decay and tooth enamel erosion even among individuals who had previously had very healthy teeth. The common denominator has often been that these patients are vapers. Scott Froum, D.D.S., a New York-based periodontist, began to suspect the correlation when he saw several of his patients come in with unexplained oral health issues.
One of his patients, a smoker, had been cavity-free for 35 years. Figuring that e-cigarettes were better for him than traditional cigarettes, this patient switched to e-cigarettes. Within a year of switching to e-cigarettes, the enamel on Dr. Froum’s patient’s teeth began to soften. This increased his risk of cavities.
Another patient had used e-cigarettes for five years. As with many individuals, the impetus for using e-cigarettes was seeing them as a viable alternative and a helpful tool to stop smoking regular cigarettes. Ultimately, this patient was smoking a cartridge a day-equal to a pack of traditional cigarettes-and would chase it down with a high-sugar energy drink to get relief from the dry mouth he experienced. The result? Serious enamel wear, tooth decay and tooth loss.
At this point, the long-term effects of vaping on oral health aren’t known since it’s relatively new. Dental professionals like Dr. Froum are still trying to determine how bad the epidemic is, but it’s clear that vaping isn’t the best choice for maintaining good oral health. You can read the results of Dr. Froum’s research in Perio-Implant Advisory.
What Makes Vaping Harmful to Oral Health and Teeth?
The ingredients in the vape e-liquid are the primary to blame for causing dental issues. Propylene glycol (PG) is a colorless carrier product. This viscous liquid breaks down into acetic acid, lactic acid and propionaldehyde when used orally. These are all toxic to tooth enamel and soft tissue. Dry mouth (xerostomia) is also a common occurrence for vapers since water molecules in saliva and oral tissue will bond to PG. Individuals with frequent dry mouth often get oral health problems such as thrush and burning mouth syndrome. In addition, when your mouth is dry, bacteria builds up at the base of your teeth and gums leading to to bad breath, gum disease, mouth sores, and tooth decay.
Another ingredient in e-liquid is vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavorings, also known to cause health concerns. VG is 60 percent as sweet as sucrose, but since it’s not metabolized by cariogenic bacteria it’s believed to not cause cavities on its own. However, when the flavorings are added to the VG there is a fourfold increase in microbial adhesion to the enamel and a two-time increase in biofilm formation. The flavorings in e-liquid also cause the tooth enamel to soften. This combination leaves your teeth susceptible as a result of cavity-causing bacteria sticking to them. Once that occurs, patients experience tooth decay.
We can’t dismiss the negative impacts of nicotine on teeth. Nicotine is the addictive ingredient naturally found in tobacco. While it’s typically actively lower in vaping devices than in traditional tobacco products, it’s still harmful to gum tissue. Nicotine affects blood flow to the gum tissue, decreases tissue turnover, and impacts cell function. When the gum tissue is damaged, the chances of getting gum disease and experiencing tooth loss increase. Nicotine is also known to stain your teeth.
One study, Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes, attributed increased inflammation and DNA damage to vaping aerosols. The disruption of healthy cell function prevents cells from dividing and growing so they end up aging and dying. As a result we see an increase in oral health concerns.
Vaping can also be dangerous to oral health when vaping devices explode. These explosions are typically caused by the lithium batteries overheating when they are turning the e-liquid into vapor. Many of these explosions go unreported which makes some experts believe the true number of vape explosions and burn injuries is 40 times the estimate given by the U.S. government. What we do know is that they can explode and if they do, it can cause damage to your oral tissue.
Vaping is an “Epidemic”
The increased use of vaping by teens caused the United States FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb to call vaping an epidemic and subsequently there has been a lot of pressure on the industry. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product by kids in 2018 of the 4.04 million high school students and 840,000 middle school students who use any tobacco products. These numbers show a dramatic increase between 2017-2018-by 78 percent amongst high school students and 49 percent among middle school students.
Teenagers are drawn to vaping by several different factors including the tantalizing flavors such as creme brulee and fruit medley, peer pressure, and the misconception that vaping is healthier than traditional smoking. Teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes. In March 2019, the FDA restricted the sale of most flavored tobacco products at convenience stores and gas stations, San Francisco banned e-cigarettes in June and Walmart has decided to stop selling e-cigarettes citing regulatory uncertainty around the products after vaping-related deaths.
If You Must Vape, Minimize the Dental Side Effects
Although the best thing you can do for your health is to completely stop vaping, we know that’s easier said than done. While you’re trying to kick the habit, you must be extremely diligent in caring for your teeth. Here are some things you can due to limit the damage vaping can cause:
- Get a dental exam every four to six months so any concerns can be identified early.
- Choose low-nicotine or nicotine-free e-juices.
- Drink water after you vape.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste. You should brush at least two times a day. Be sure you wait at least 20 minutes after vaping to brush so that brushing won’t weaken the enamel further.
- Floss every day to keep your gums healthy.
When to See the Dentist
Schedule an appointment before your regular cleaning and dental exam if you are experiencing any of these concerns:
- Frequent dry mouth
- Loose teeth
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Changes to your tooth sensitivity especially to temperature
- Mouth sores that aren’t healing
- Mouth pain
- Receding gums
- White spots on teeth (a sign of decalcifications)
- White patches on your mouth or tongue (a sign of thrush)
We expect research to continue into the harmful effects of vaping on your oral health. While there might not be a definitive connection yet, we’ve seen enough to feel confident that patients who vape need to be diligent about their dental and oral health. This includes never missing your dental exam. Schedule your appointment today at one of our convenient Castle Dental locations.