Although e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, user rates have skyrocketed in recent years, especially among teens. Listening to a recent radio ad for a popular vaping company, it’s not hard to understand the appeal. With it’s cool-styled marketing offering so many fun flavors, colours and styles, they’re selling cool. Of course, at the end of the ad, there was that rapid fire health warning, quickly rambling off why their product is dangerous. But who’s listening?
The entire ad was eerily reminiscent of the big tobacco companies of old and their marketing playbooks that used slick ads with cool people having fun to hook people into smoking. The same themes are being used to sell e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookahs and jules, but they are all marketed and promoted as healthier alternatives to smoking – they are not! Even more disturbing is that we are seeing a rise in non smokers, like teens, turning to smoking alternative products as the new, cool, social habit.
As dental providers, we are trying to stay ahead of what the limited research is telling us. Although the long term consequences are not known at this time, what the experts are saying is that e-cigarettes are not a safer option. They are just as addicting and the toxic chemical they contain, even at lower levels, are not healthy. This is disappointing to the millions of former smokers that have now exchanged one unsafe addiction for another.
Vaping contains varying concentrations of nicotine depending on the product, but recent studies have shown that the nicotine and flavouring agents are still strong enough to damage and kill the cells in the mouth and can contribute to oral cancer, gum disease and tooth loss.
“We showed that when the vapors from e-cigarettes are burned, it causes cells in the mouth to release imflammatory proteins. …these proteins aggravate stress within the cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases.”Nictoine causes a constriction of the blood vessels. This reduced blood supply to the tissue in the mouth and those surrounding and supporting the teeth prevents healthy maintenance and healing.” Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine – University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
Using e-cigarettes, referred to as vaping, works by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol that the user inhales. The liquid in the e-cigarette, called e-liquid, is usually made up of propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, water, and nicotine, although some users will substitute THC for nicotine. In practice, e-cigarette users tend to reach lower blood nicotine concentrations than tobacco smokers, although it is difficult to make a direct comparison because nicotine concentrations in e-cigarettes vary widely. Perio-Implant Advisory.com
E-cigarettes lead to the same, and sometimes even broader, suppression of key immune genes in your respiratory system and nasal passages as traditional cigarette smoking. This means e-cigarettes could be just as harmful as regular cigarettes to your respiratory system. University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Vaping and Your Oral Health
Gum Disease – When nicotine causes the lack of blood flow to mouth tissues it can lead to deterioration of the gums. E-smoking has been shown to cause an inflammatory response in the mouth tissues which impacts your mouth’s ability to fight off bacteria. In turn, this can lead to a serious gum condition called periodontal disease.
Oral Cancer – is on the rise and e-smoking is a genuine risk factor. Tell you dentist if you use e-cigarettes and maintain your regular checkup visits where your provider will pay special attention for any signs for oral cancer during routine monitoring of your oral health. If you use e-cigarettes, here are some of the oral cancer signs and symptoms you should watch for:
- Sores in the mouth and on the lips that don’t heal
- Red or white patches of skin in the mouth
- A persistent sore throat or hoarseness
- Numbness or swelling of the lips or mouth
If you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
Dry Mouth – Some base liquids in products have been known to contribute to dry mouth, a condition whereby the quality and quantity of saliva is affected. Saliva’s remineralization, acid lowering and cleansing properties are critical the health of teeth and gums.
Bad Breath – Tobacco products have always been associated with bad breath so it should come as no surprise that e-smoking can also cause foul mouth odours. This is primarily due to the decrease in saliva production which causes an increase in bacteria and the buildup of food debris.
For an in-depth read on the adverse affects of e-cigarettes, read: Public Health Consequences of E -Cigarettes
Understanding that the long-term safety of e-cigarettes have not yet been established, as dental providers we will continue to caution our patients since the initial data indicates that e-cigarette vapour damages cells and lowers certain enzymes important in maintaining tissue health and preventing cancer. We encourage you to speak with your dentist if you use nicotine products.
Yours in Better Dental Health,
The Your Smile Dental Care team
(905) 576-4537 Oshawa
(416) 783-3533 Toronto