Vaping has grown in popularity over the last few years. It is seen by many as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, offering a healthier option for smokers. By using e-cigarettes, it’s believed that individuals will avoid many of the health complications associated with traditional tobacco cigarettes. As a result, you’d expect dentists to be over the moon at the prospect of something that reduces the consumption of cigarettes. It’s well known that cigarettes cause a lot of oral health problems – most notably staining and periodontal disease.
However, while vaping might be ‘healthier’ than smoking, it’s certainly not healthy. In fact, research suggests there is a strong link between vaping and periodontal disease. This is down to the chemicals present in e-cigarettes and how they interact with your mouth. Some dentists argue that they might be worse for your oral health than traditional cigarettes.
What is vaping?
Vaping is a term used to describe the act of using e-cigarettes. For all intents and purposes, an e-cigarette is an electronic version of a typical tobacco cigarette. Of course, it is built out of entirely different things and uses technology. The science behind vaping is pretty straightforward: a liquid is heated to generate vapor, which is then inhaled by the user.
A typical e-cigarette will have a few key components:
- A replaceable inhaler cartridge – this contains the e-liquid that is heated. You can buy many different cartridges of liquids in loads of various flavors. Most e-liquids are made of vegetable glycerin, polyethylene glycol, flavoring, and nicotine/THC.
- A heating chamber – this is known as the ‘vaporizer’ as it produces the heat that turns the liquid into a gas. It is usually either built into the inhaler cartridge or the main body of the e-cigarette.
- Rechargeable battery – all vape pens/e-cigarettes will have a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Obviously, this is required to heat the heating chamber. It is connected to a circuit board that’s often linked to an LED light telling the user when heating is occurring.
Many people choose to vape as it is seen as the best way to stop smoking. The nicotine concentration is far lower – and some e-liquids are completely nicotine-free. The feeling of having an e-cigarette in your hand makes your body associate it with the feeling of smoking, so it’s easier to adapt and slowly decrease your nicotine consumption. However, some of the ingredients in these devices are bad for your oral health.
How does vaping damage your oral health?
Primarily, the concerns stem from the three main ingredients in e-liquids:
- Propylene glycol (PG)
- Vegetable glycerin (VG) & flavorings
The sole purpose of PG is to act as a carrier for the e-liquid. You can’t taste it, it doesn’t smell, and it is used in many different products throughout the food industry. The problem is that it is directly ingested through the mouth when vaping. As this happens, PG will break down into propionaldehyde, lactic acid, and acetic acid. These things all have a direct impact on your oral health! Specifically, they’re shown to break down enamel and soft tissues in the mouth. Thus, PG can cause gum issues and potentially pave the way for cavity formation. It’s also found that it can cause dry mouth, which is a very bad condition as it makes it easier for cavities to form.
VG isn’t that dangerous when used on its own. While it is a sugary liquid, it will not cause cavities. The issue is that VG is used alongside other flavorings to make the vape liquid taste better. Here, the combination of VG and flavorings leads to a massive increase in both microbial adhesions to enamel and biofilm formation. This was discovered by a study in 2018, and it also found that enamel hardness decreased by 27%. In essence, this combination leads to more bacteria in the mouth, weaker enamel, and the perfect breeding ground for cavities.
Lastly, you have nicotine – a product that’s also found in traditional cigarettes. The effects of nicotine on oral health are known by many. Essentially, it can stem the flow of blood to the gum tissue, which can cause gum disease. Excessive nicotine use has been linked to tooth loss due to severe periodontitis. Granted, the concentration of nicotine is far less in e-cigarettes, but there’s still enough to cause problems.
To summarize, the ingredients in e-liquids will increase the likelihood of tooth decay forming, causing cavities in the mouth. There are also very strong links that suggest periodontal disease is more likely with regular vaping. Nicotine is still a prime culprit, but the VG and PG are also at fault. Ultimately, using these chemicals in your mouth is not a good idea as it can cause gums to recede and bleed, which causes teeth to fall out.
Additional concerns about vaping
As well as the ingredients, vaping devices present another serious threat. The lithium-ion battery has been known to explode when being used. Seeing as this product is used in your mouth, the likelihood of oral health complications is very high. While this doesn’t have a direct impact on periodontal disease, it’s still worth thinking about.
The dangers of periodontal disease
Clearly, all oral health issues are serious. However, periodontal disease is one of the biggest challenges as it often goes untreated. The main danger is that your gums will slowly start to fade away. They recede further and further until they expose the roots of your teeth. This weakens the supporting structures of your teeth and makes you more prone to tooth loss.
Thankfully, periodontal disease can be treated, and the effects can be reversed. It’s a simple case of cutting out bad habits and following a strict oral hygiene routine. You will also benefit from some periodontal disease treatment by a qualified periodontist.
If you’re in need of periodontal treatment, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Schedule an appointment with Dr. I. Stephen Brown for a full consultation. This will identify your main problems and allow Dr. Brown to formulate the perfect treatment plan to repair your gums.