At this point, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, and can lead to severe health problems – which is why the modern alternative, vaping, has become so popular.
Vaping involves inhaling vapour from an electronic cigarette or e-cigarette, which heats a vape liquid or e-liquid to generate an aerosol that the user can inhale and then exhale.
These can contain nicotine in various strengths but often don’t contain any at all – with artificial flavourings like watermelon, vanilla, or menthol keeping vapers hooked instead.
Vaping was originally introduced as a way for heavy smokers to gradually quit smoking cigarettes, but the growing market of flavoured vapes has turned recreational vaping into a widespread health concern in the UK for doctors and dentists alike.
So, how does vaping impact your oral health, and what can you do to avoid negative effects?
Smoking tobacco cigarettes is proven to be detrimental to health in various ways, from staining teeth and fingers yellow to irritating gums and causing bad breath.
More seriously, smoking cigarettes doesn’t just cause lung cancer, but can also cause over a dozen different types of cancer throughout the body – including oral cancer.
These days, most people are aware of how smoking impacts oral health, but as vaping is relatively new, there is less research into the long-term effects of vaping on oral health.
We do know that vaping is generally much less harmful than smoking, as cigarettes contain carcinogens like tar, which vapes don’t. However, while vapes contain less nicotine than cigarettes, they can still become addictive and cause health problems with over-use.
Smokers who use vaping to quit cigarettes are likely to experience fewer health problems, and individuals who take up vaping instead of smoking are likely to do less harm than if they took up smoking – but vaping is supposed to be temporary, not an ongoing habit.
Taking up vaping as a lifestyle choice instead of an aid to quit smoking may have much greater implications for oral health than we yet realise.
Cigarettes and tobacco are known to cause tooth discolouration because of their high levels of tar and nicotine, which can stain teeth yellow and eventually brown.
E-cigarettes don’t contain tar and have less nicotine, if any, so they shouldn’t stain teeth so severely – but the artificial flavouring, colourings, and sticky aerosol from vapes can potentially trap debris and bacteria that could go on to cause stains and enamel erosion.
Yes – like smoking, vaping can introduce nicotine into your body, which restricts blood vessels, and exposes your gums and tongue to hot chemical vapour, which irritates them and dries them out.
Put together, restricted blood flow and dry mouth (xerostomia) can result in poor healing and a build-up of bacteria. Over time, this can cause gum disease to develop, resulting in sores, inflammation, receding gums, bad breath, and eventual tooth decay and tooth loss.
Typically, vapes should not contain acidic sugars, as artificial sweeteners are used for synthetic flavours instead. However, that doesn’t mean that e-cigarettes can’t damage your teeth.
Vape liquids usually contain glycerin and propylene glycol, which can affect the bacterial composition in your mouth, allowing enamel-eroding bacteria to build up between teeth and under the gumline. This could then result in developing cavities and loose teeth over time.
There is also the potential for the stimulant nicotine to encourage teeth grinding (bruxism), which can wear away enamel, or for accidental misuse of vape pens to chip or crack a tooth.
Most of the carcinogens in cigarettes are released when the tobacco is burned, and since this isn’t present in electronic cigarettes, the risk of cancer is likely to be much lower.
However, e-cigarettes contain a variety of ingredients that aren’t found in traditional cigarettes, and more research is needed to determine whether these chemicals could cause cancer.
Early research suggests that frequent vaping causes similar levels of DNA damage to cells in the mouth as smoking cigarettes, which can increase the risk of inflammatory diseases and cancer.
While vaping may be less likely to cause other types of cancer than mouth, nose, or throat cancer, it still increases the risk of gum disease, which is known to lead to more serious health problems like oral cancer and heart disease if left untreated.
If you vape, it’s essential to make sure that you’re looking after your teeth and oral hygiene properly to reduce the risk of these potential negative side effects.
You should be brushing your teeth at least twice a day – morning and night – and flossing when possible to prevent bacteria from building up and damaging your teeth and gums.
Additionally, you should avoid e-liquids that include nicotine, propylene glycol, menthol, or sweet flavours, as these are likely to do the most damage.
Not only should you limit your nicotine consumption to avoid addiction and cut back on vaping, but you should also be sure to drink water after vaping to avoid dehydrating your mouth.
It’s best to quit vaping altogether, but these measures should help you to reduce the oral health risks associated with e-cigarettes while you gradually stop.
In the meantime, you must keep up with routine dental check-ups. Your dentist will be able to recognise the signs of cavities and gum inflammation if they are present and make sure you receive the right treatment before they can progress.
Visiting a dental hygienist every six months or so can help to ensure that your teeth and gums are cleaned thoroughly, removing harmful build-ups and restoring fresh breath.
To speak to a dentist in Warrington about the effects of vaping on oral health, or to schedule a check-up or hygienist appointment to assess the damage to your teeth from vaping, please call us on 01925 756 565 or email [email protected].