How E-cigarettes Affect the Health of Your Mouth
As of 2015, there were 2,750,000 e-cigarette smokers in the United States. People may turn to e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes or as means of quitting smoking. But what are the overall health effects of e-cigarettes?
Some of the adverse health effects of regular cigarettes may be avoided with e-cigarettes, as they do not contain tobacco. No smoke is generated, so second-hand smoke is not a problem. Instead, e-cigarettes release a mist. For this reason, e-cigarettes can be used in public places.
E-cigarettes work by using a battery to heat a vaping solution, which contains a combination of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavorings. Inhaling activates the heat. Once the solution is heated, it is released as an aerosol and can be inhaled. Because e-cigarettes don’t burn, they don’t create many of the cancer-causing chemicals generated by tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes also don’t cause cigarette-breath, plaque, or yellow teeth.
In spite of the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, there are still a lot of questions about the effect they have on health. While e-cigarettes are generally believed to create fewer health risks than regular cigarettes, they can still cause oral health problems.
Vaping Solution: A Dangerous Mix
Just because e-cigarettes are tobacco-free doesn’t mean they are safe. Many of the ingredients in vaping liquids are carcinogens, which can cause oral cancer.
The vaporizing liquid used in e-cigarettes contains harmful chemicals, including formaldehyde, propylene glycol, acrolein, toluene, nitrosamines, acetaldehyde, and other chemicals. You may remember that formaldehyde is that smelly solution used to preserve samples in biology class. Propylene glycol is a substance contained in anti-freeze. The solution also includes metals like nickel and cadmium.
The Risks of Nicotine
The nicotine in the vaping solution presents a range of risks to your oral health. Nicotine enters your bloodstream through the soft tissues in your cheeks. The levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes may vary, but the exposure may be intensified by the smoker’s tendency to inhale more frequently and deeply with e-cigarettes.
Nicotine is a stimulant, so it can cause your jaw muscles to tense up. This tension may result in tooth grinding. Grinding your teeth can cause headaches and jaw pain. Your teeth can wear down or even fracture. Your gums can also start receding.
Inhaling nicotine can reduce saliva production. Dry mouth leads to bacteria build-up and tooth decay. The soft tissues in the mouth absorb nicotine and can damage the mouth, gums, and tongue. Gum disease can develop, leading the gum line to recede and the teeth to loosen.
Hidden Gum Disease
If you develop gum disease from smoking e-cigarettes, the symptoms can be hard to detect. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the gums and denying them needed oxygen and nutrients. This restriction masks gum disease, which is usually signaled by increased blood flow to the gums. Some e-cigarette users may even be tricked into thinking their gums are healthier than before they started vaping.
If you smoke e-cigarettes, your dentist needs to look for pockets in the space between the gum line and where the tooth attaches to the gum. That’s where they will detect gum disease. Deeper pockets let your dentist know that the attachment between the gum and your teeth is breaking down. More frequent visits to the dentist will be needed to catch the development of gum disease.
The Unknowns of E-cigarettes
While some of the oral health risks of e-cigarettes are known, more research needs to be done to gain a fuller picture. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has called for research on the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.
More research also needs to be done about whether e-cigarettes help with smoking cessation. While some users of e-cigarettes may do so hoping to quit smoking, statistics are needed to prove the connection. The World Health Organization has asked e-cigarette manufacturers not to promote vaping as a way to quit smoking. The FDA says that distinctions need to be drawn between smoking cessation devices and e-cigarettes.
With the jury still out on e-cigarettes, consumers need to use caution. The freedom to smoke in public isn’t worth damaging your teeth and gums.
Do you have more questions about how e-cigarettes might be impacting your mouth’s health? Have a conversation with the experts at Cumberland Surgical Arts.
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