To Vape or Not To Vape
The Effects of Vaping on Your Oral Health
Recently, vaping has grown increasingly popular with patients of all ages, but especially among young adults and teenagers. Vaping companies advertise a healthier option than smoking cigarettes. However, there has not been much research into the true safety of vaping over cigarettes.
Vaping liquids contain nicotine, which is one of the harmful ingredients in cigarettes. Nicotine impairs the function of the immune system – the main fighter against bacteria in the mouth that cause periodontal disease. Nicotine use has been consistently linked to moderate and advanced stages of periodontal disease. Contrary to popular belief or advertisement, nicotine is present in higher percentage levels in vape liquids than in cigarettes. Consistent vaping of these high nicotine levels could cause the development of gingivitis and periodontal disease. Symptoms of gum disease are bad breath, bleeding gums, and gingival inflammation.
In addition to immune system surpresence, nicotine consumption can also increase bacteria counts in the mouth. Studies show that teeth that had been exposed to e-cigarette aerosol had more bacteria present on their surface than those that had not. This is likely caused by a reduction in blood flow and circulation due to nicotine ingestion. Bacteria is the main irritant or cause of gingivitis and periodontal disease. When the number of bad bacteria grow to excessive levels, it becomes difficult for the patient to return the mouth to a low bacteria level.
There are multiple negative effects of vaping on your teeth and oral tissues. In addition to predisposing patients to gum disease or periodontitis, vaping can also play a major causation role in xerostomia (dry mouth). Propylene glycol (PG), which is found in almost all e-cigarette liquids, is a cause of dry mouth. PG is a hygroscopic compound, meaning it draws or absorbs moisture from its surroundings. Chronic xerostomia can be associated with bad breath, mouth sores, and tooth decay.
There are also multiple oral lesions that may be caused as a result of smoking or vaping nicotine containing products. One of the most common lesions is nicotine stomatitis, which is characterized by red pinpoint type lesions in the roof of the mouth and back of the throat.
Additionally, vaping places patients at similar risk of developing oral cancer as smoking traditional cigarettes because it causes chronic changes in the oral tissues. When tissues are constantly altered from their natural state, it can cause irreversible cell damage which may transform healthy cells into cancerous cells. Not all abnormal lesions are cancer, but it is important to know the signs of abnormal changes in the oral tissues. Common signs of abnormal cell changes are the development of ulcers, red and white patches, and lumps or bumps that are not a part of the normal anatomy.
There are over 3,500 new cases of oral cancer per year, and 4 out of 5 people who are diagnosed are not aware of the signs and symptoms. If vaping is a part of your everyday life, seeing your dentist and hygienist twice yearly for an oral cancer screening is paramount! However, in between your visits, about once per month, you should complete an at home screening on yourself. The main areas of examination include the roof of the mouth, the throat region, the floor of the mouth, the sides of the tongue, and the cheeks and gums. If you notice any ulcers or lesions, monitor the area for 2 weeks. After two weeks, if the lesion is still present and is not healing, call your dentist immediately.