How do e-cigarettes affect oral health?
While electronic cigarettes are marketed as safe alternatives to traditional cigarettes, a recent study published in the Oncotarget journal suggests that e-cigarette vapor can be just as harmful to cells in the mouth. This damage can have lasting effects on both the gums and tongue. E-Cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but they have a variety of other chemicals including nicotine that can lead to health problems such as gum disease and oral cancer.
Here is a short list of additional harmful oral effects of nicotine:
- It causes gum recession
- It causes bad breath (halitosis)
- It promotes teeth grinding
As cells in your mouth (especially your gums) are damaged from the vapor, they may also die. When these cells die, teeth lose access to some of the natural secretions produces by the gums. They also are affected through decreased access to blood vessels.
Research is ongoing
The main issue with e-cigarettes are that they are new, and because they are new, they are not well studied. Researchers are actively investigating e-cigarette use, but note that the rate of damage to exposed cells increases with prolonged use. They also mention that further research is required to investigate long-term effects of electronic cigarettes.
It’s important to remember when something such as the electronic cigarette becomes popular that there is little known about the long term effects. If you are currently using e-cigarettes, you should be watchful for signs of gum disease. If you are present for a regular dental checkup, this is something that we will always look for. We will measure the pockets around your teeth to detect early gum disease.
If you’re interested in reading one of the studies, here is an excellent one from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
If you have friends or family who use e-cigarettes, remember let them know the risks involved!