It’s official: vaping is in. Everywhere you look, e-cigarette stores are opening and film and TV characters (not to mention real life celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio) are ditching their regular smokes in favor of top-of-the-line vaporizers. Perhaps most noticeable, though, is the debate raging between medical experts over whether or not the practice is safe enough as an alternative to smoking.
The Safety Argument
While some experts claim that the risks associated with e-cigarettes are too high for it to be condoned, others argue that compared to smoking, it’s the safer option by a long way. We’ve heard the experts discuss cancer risks and lung health, but a subject that far fewer people are discussing is the direct impact vaping could have upon oral health.
One common complaint about e-cigarettes is that frequent use can lead to dryness, irritation and soreness of the mouth, throat and tongue. This is in some cases caused by an allergy to propylene glycol, an ingredient found in most e-liquids.
Vapers can also develop canker sores in the mouth; however, this is thought to be a side effect of quitting smoking. Canker sores aren’t typically a cause for concern but they can be unpleasant and unsightly, and can deter people from their normal oral hygiene practices due to the pain and heightened sensitivity.
The Effects of Nicotine
Nicotine – the addictive ingredient in tobacco and e-cigarettes – is a chemical which can cause a whole host of oral health issues. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it reduces the amount of blood flowing into your gums. This can cause gum recession and bad breath (as it limits the production of mouth-cleaning saliva). Nicotine is also a stimulant, which means it can cause you to grind your teeth more.
The key point to make here is that both regular cigarettes and most e-cigarettes contain nicotine – and in fact, e-cigarettes tend to contain less. However, because e-cigarettes can generally be used in more locations, it is possible that nicotine consumption from vaping could be the same as (or higher than) smoking for certain people.
Further Studies Needed
At the moment, not enough is known about how vaping affects the health of the mouth or body in the long term. Further studies are needed to firmly establish the risks associated with this practice.
However, when weighed against normal cigarettes, e-cigarettes do seem to pose less of a direct risk to oral health. This is largely because e-liquids contain much lower levels of toxic chemicals than normal cigarettes.
Oral Hygiene Tips for Vapers
Until more is learned about the association between e-cigarettes and oral health, vapers who are concerned about keeping their teeth and gums healthy should keep up good hygiene practices. This means brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, flossing and visiting your dentist for a check up at least once a year.
You can also combat the mouth dryness that vaping can cause by drinking more water, cutting out caffeine and using a mouthwash such as Biotene.