Warnings about vaping in teens and young adults tend to focus on the potential dangers to the heart and lungs. However, research shows the chemicals in e-cigarettes can cause damage exactly where they enter the body- the Oral Cavity.

In this issue, we will discuss the risks of vaping on oral health.

E-cigarettes are a fairly recent pop culture. Although most of its activity and long-term effects are unknown, there is considerable evidence that shows the link between e-cigarettes and poor oral health.

Nicotine, whether smoked or vaped, restricts blood flow to the gums, which can contribute to periodontal disease. Recent studies published in scientific journals showed that 43% of people using e-cigarettes had gum disease and oral infections. That figure was higher among smokers; up to 73%. Not only does nicotine restrict blood flow to the gums, it also affects our mouth’s natural ability to fight infections and replenish connective tissue, leading to a higher risk of gum disease and tooth loss.

When the oral cavity is constantly traumatized by chemicals, like nicotine or heat the tissue experiences irreversible damage. These permanent conditions include- gum inflammation, tooth decay and loss of the bone that anchors teeth to the jaw bone. Oral cancer is also a serious concern in those who vape.

Periodontal disease is normally a disease seen in adults, however more young people are affected because of vaping. Teenagers and young people, who usually have lots of saliva in their mouths are affected with dry mouth and increased complaints of mouth ulcers. These symptoms are all tied to the components in e-cigarettes. More cavities are seen in younger patients who vape, which may be due to the acidity of the ingredients in vape liquid and an increase in cavity-causing bacteria.

Propylene glycol (PG), is toxic to enamel and gum tissue. The fluids in e-cigarettes, which includespropylene glycol, benzene, formaldehyde and other chemicals, increase the risks. Propylene glycol is safe to eat and inhale but when used during vaping breaks down into acids that damage enamel and soft tissue. PG also causes dry mouth, taking away important saliva, leading to cavities and gum disease.

While drinking water can help moisturize the mouth, it’s not a replacement for saliva, which contains compounds that help protect teeth. Even worse, teens are likely to drink soda or energy drinks to get rid of dry mouth. These drinks contain sugar that feeds the bacteria and acids that further erode tooth enamel.‍

Vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavorings help bacteria stick to (already soft) teeth. Vegetable glycerin is a slightly sticky liquid sweetener that helps bacteria stick to grooves on the biting surfaces of teeth. In addition, when mixed with various flavors the combination causes four times as many germs to stick to teeth and double the growth of bacteria. Flavorings also decrease the hardness of tooth enamel by 27%.

When combined with the oral damage caused by nicotine, PG, VG and flavorings, they collectively create the perfect storm for rampant decay, infections in the gums and tooth loss.

It may be difficult to convince a teen or young adult who is desperate to fit in with their peers that the negative oral health effects of vaping and smoking cigarettes are worth immediately quitting. But considering the impact a healthy smile has on the self-esteem and future career success of your child, the conversation is worth it.

For further questions, kindly visit our website at www.csddentistry.com

Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or [email protected]

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