Vaping, or inhaling nicotine through e-cigarettes, has become extremely popular in recent years, especially among teenagers. What was unknown a decade ago is now a habit: 10.8 million adults and 3.6 middle and high school students use electronic cigarettes. Given what we know about the addictive nature of nicotine, this is a concerning trend. There are other aspects of vaping that are also harmful. For dentists, the question is: how does vaping affect oral health?
What Is Vaping?
Vaping is “the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.” Because the e-cigarette heats up the liquid, turning it into a vapor and the user inhales that heated vapor, the temperature of the mouth rises. This changes the environment for the bacteria that lives in your mouth and causes it to proliferate. More bacteria, or plaque, means that that your teeth and gum tissue will be at greater risk for decay and inflammation. So this means people who vape are more likely to get cavities and gingivitis. They are also more susceptible to infections.
The Difference between Vaping and Smoking
Now that we’ve established that vaping is unhealthy, how does it compare to smoking? Since smokers breathe in smoke containing particles of paper and tobacco, vaping has to be better, right? It’s water based. The answer is: probably not. Because vaping is such a new way of consuming nicotine, the long terms effects are not very well known yet. Researchers are studying how vaping affects oral health, but won’t be able to say with certainty what all the risks are for many years. We do know that heating up the mouth repeatedly and consistently does impact tooth decay in a very negative way.
Also, vaping causes the teeth to darken. E-cigarettes don’t contain tar like regular cigarettes, but the nicotine will stain teeth and cause tooth discoloration. Furthermore, the nicotine adheres to the surface of your teeth, forming a bumpy surface and making it easier for plaque to build up and also harder for a toothbrush to remove.
When e-cigarettes were brand new, people did think that vaping would be a solution for people who wanted to quit smoking, but it’s turned out to be yet another problem. The compact nature of e-cigarettes and JUULs makes them easy to carry and hide. They come in a variety of flavors too. It’s easy to see why they are popular with teens and adults.
Unfortunately, nicotine is a very addictive substance, and e-cigarette pods or flavor cartridges contain high doses of it. If you care about your health and your oral health, then, you’ll pass on this trend, no matter how many of your friends vape or if you find vaping tasty or enjoyable. It’s a bad habit and will surely be a hard habit to break down the line when you personally discover the downsides to vaping.