We all know the negative effect of smoking cigarettes on oral health - and on all other aspects of your health, for that matter! But what about vaping? Since its rise in popularity, e-cigarettes have been widely seen as a “healthier” alternative to their predecessor. Yet the research is thin on vaping (the action of inhaling the vapors produced by e-cigarettes) and its actual effect on oral health; what’s more, the evidence that is out there doesn’t look great. Let’s take a closer look at some of what we do know about vaping:
- E-cigarettes eliminate some of the things we don’t like in traditional cigarettes. Vaping does not result in the tooth discoloration, plaque build up, or bad breath that come with traditional smoking. So they’ve got that going for them!
- Vaping does still (usually) result in the inhalation of nicotine. Though there are nicotine free options, many e-cigarette cartridges contain nicotine, which when inhaled can have many harmful consequences. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow. This directly impacts the mouth’s ability to fight off bacteria, reduces cellular regeneration and healing ability, and can lead to periodontal disease.
- These vapors do have a negative impact on gum tissue. A study published late 2016 in the journal Oncotarget found that e-cigarette vapors, when burned, cause the release of inflammatory proteins in the gum tissue. This puts stress on the cells, resulting in damage that could lead to oral diseases such as periodontitis.
- The flavoring in e-cigarettes may be quite harmful. The above study found that flavored vapor, some flavors especially, did even more damage on the cellular level than unflavored vapor. Additionally, while these flavoring chemicals boast an FDA rating of “generally recognized as safe,” it is important to note that this refers to ingestion, not inhalation. Which leads us to:
- Vaping may be harmful to your respiratory system just like cigarettes. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found in their tests that e-cigarettes produce similar, if not farther reaching, suppression of key immune genes in our nasal passages and respiratory system, as compared to conventional cigarettes.
The one thing that’s best known about electronic cigarettes is more research will be needed to fully understand the long-term consequences of vaping. It’s not looking great, though, for those hoping to make a lateral move from the cigarettes of old. If you’re worried about your oral health, abstinence is the safest bet in this case!