Think you’re evading the dangers associated with smoking by switching to e-cigarettes? Think again. Electronic cigarettes, better known as e-cigarettes, are thought to pose the same oral health risks as conventional cigarettes. Since first being introduced to the market in 2003, the modern e-cigarette has experienced a massive following, especially among teens and young adults. From 2013 to 2014, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than tripled. While e-cigarettes have been portrayed as a healthier alternative for smokers looking for a nicotine fix, vaping has been claimed just as damaging to your mouth.
While high-sugar foods are a leading cause of tooth decay, smoking is not far behind. E-cigarettes can contribute to dental caries in several different ways. Although e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, they do still contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Nicotine acts as a vasoconstrictor which inhibits your ability to produce saliva. Insufficient saliva flow leaves your mouth susceptible to bacteria buildup and tooth decay. Nicotine can also cause alveolar bone loss which increases your risk for developing tooth decay and possible tooth loss.
The health of your teeth is not the only thing you need to worry about when puffing on an e-cigarette. Recent research shows that e-cigs can damage the gums in the same way as conventional cigarettes. The first-ever study showed that when e-cigarette vapors are burned, it forces cells in the mouth to release inflammatory proteins. This process aggravates the cells, resulting in damage that can transform into oral disease.
Poor Blood Flow
As a vasoconstrictor, nicotine reduces blood flow to your oral tissues due to the contraction of blood vessels in the muscular wall. Over time, decreased oxygen and nutrient supplies increase the likelihood of developing periodontal disease. Long-term restriction of blood flow to the oral tissues also inhibits the mouth’s natural cleaning and bacteria-fighting functions. Poor blood flow can also slow down the body’s ability to heal and generate new, healthy cells in the mouth.
Much like conventional cigarettes, e-cigarette use can cause chronic halitosis, or bad breath. The culprit behind the bad breath is nicotine. Some research suggests that nicotine may contribute to the development of gingivitis and in some cases, periodontitis. Each of these two gum diseases are known for causing foul-smelling breath. Nicotine also increases your risk of decay, which can also cause bad breath.
With conventional cigarettes, teeth staining occurs when tar and ash from the smoke causes plaque and residue to accumulate on the tooth surfaces. E-cigarettes do not produce smoke, but can still leave your teeth with an unappealing yellow tint. Most e-cigarettes contain a combination of distilled water, nicotine, and flavored ingredients that transform into vapor when smoked. As e-cigs do not contain tar, discoloration is typically caused by the concentrated liquid flavors.
Your oral health is not only important for the look and function of your smile, but also to your overall well-being. When you lack proper oral hygiene habits, bacteria in your mouth can reach levels high enough to cause oral infections, such as gum disease and tooth decay. If you have certain immune diseases, such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes, your body’s ability to fight infection is already low and can make your oral health problems even more severe. To maintain good oral health, it’s paramount to abstain from smoking both conventional and electronic cigarettes, as each can cause substantial damage to your health.