Vaping has become a popular teen and pre-teen trend in recent years. With schools back in session, Dentistry for Children believes it’s time to remind parents about this relatively new threat to oral health.
Vaping: Safer than Smoking?
Many adults who vape might say that it is much safer for their lungs than smoking. However, that might not be as true as researchers originally thought. At any rate, it still is not good for mouths of any age, as you will see by the end of this article.
A Vaping Consultation: Dr. Scott Froum and Dr. Alisa Neymark
In a recent issue of Dear Doctor, the prestigious dentistry magazine, Dr. Scott Froum and Dr. Alisa Neymark stated, “On the surface, e-cigarettes seem to have advantages over regular cigarettes: They are definitely less smelly and they don’t present the same chemical dangers that come from burning tobacco.”
Then they added, “However, e-cigarettes come with their own set of problems. The more we learn about them, the more evidence we have that vaping may be just as damaging to your oral health as smoking.”
Vaping and Teen “Cool-ness”
First, Dr. Troy King and the staff want parents and caregivers to know what vaping really is. Then we want you to be aware of the dangers it poses to oral health.
- When people vape, the E-cigarette allows them to inhale a heated mixture containing water, flavoring, nicotine, and other chemicals.
- The danger lurks in the wording. You see, vaping implies vapor. However, what e-cigs actually create is “an aerosol, not just a vapor as the term “vaping” might imply.”
- On the one hand, a vapor indicates a gaseous form of a substance. On the other hand, an aerosol “means that particles are suspended in the vapor.”
- Thus, “E-cigarette aerosols contain particles of various chemical compounds.” Several of these “pose a risk to your oral health as well as your general health.”
Nicotine: Fine Companion of Gum Disease and Tooth Loss
You probably already know that both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes deliver nicotine. However, did you know that nicotine has a long association with both tooth loss and gum disease?
That is easy to understand when you realize that Nicotine constricts blood vessels. The ugly cycle works like this:
- Less blood flow to the gums interferes with your child’s immune function.
- This causes damage to the connective tissues that hold teeth in place.
- Thus vaping causes a much greater risk of gum disease and sadly eventual tooth loss.
- Likewise, “Research from 2018 found that teeth exposed to the aerosol in e-cigarettes accumulated more bacteria than teeth not exposed to vaping.”
Remember: Vaping Makes A Perfect Environment for Bacteria
Five years ago it might have been true that vaping provided a smaller amount of nicotine than regular cigarettes. However, in 2020, manufacturers have developed highly efficient carriers of nicotine. Plus, did you know some cartridges contain as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes?
Furthermore, pediatric dentists are especially concerned that it is mainly the delicate mucous membranes of the mouth that absorb the nicotine. That means harmful substances coming directly into the oral cavity.
Vaping Creates Flavorful Decay—Ew.
We know that safety is an issue with vaping for sweet flavors. Originally, many flavorings used in e-liquids were only approved as food flavorings. At first, we did not even know about the safety of such additives when they were inhaled instead of eaten. Now we know that some of them form compounds that irritate and inflame oral membranes.
Vaping Research Intensifies Dental Caution
Although legislation has curtailed the cute flavors that addicted teens. Some are still available. A recent study compared the effects of “flavored versus unflavored e-cigarette liquid on dental health…”
- Researchers discovered a 27% decrease in enamel hardness when vaping involved flavors.
- Such compromised dental enamel invites serious tooth decay. At the same time, the thick e-liquid enables cavity-causing bacteria to easily adhere to tooth surfaces.
Another study revealed that that fancy e-cigarette flavorings increased “cell damage and cell death, with menthol flavoring causing the most damage.”
Vaping and Oral Health Difficulties
Now that you know more about vaping, let’s look at the ugly side effects of this trend. Below is a list of the actual health problems dentists associate with this trend.
- Stomatitis: Vaping requires strong heat and it can cause ulcers, also known as lesions on the upper palate. The heat causes thickness, redness, irritations, and even cracking in the palate. Just like it sounds, it’s painful.
- Gum Recession: Nicotine and heat both cause gum tissue to recede. Eventually, this can even expose the root structure. Then, your child experiences dental sensitivity to heat and cold substances.
- Malocclusions: As the gums recede, more serious problems can grow. Thus the power of vaping can actually cause bite problems known as malocclusions. The teeth can get loose, overcrowded, and even twisted.
- Xerostomia (Dry mouth): Another popular ingredient of vaping e-liquids is Propylene glycol. It creates a lack of moisture in the mouth. Dry mouth might not seem like a bad problem.
However, “when the mouth is not adequately hydrated, oral tissues are more susceptible to bacteria…” The sad results are tooth decay and acid erosion.
- Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): Are you aware that nicotine is a muscle stimulant? Likewise, vape pens and e-cigs invite chewing and grinding. Thus over time, bruxism initiates jaw pain and headaches. Then tooth surfaces can flatten and even crack.
The Tip of the Vaping Iceberg
Parents, we must ask you if you would recognize an e-cig or vaping device.
If you are not aware of the trend, you might not realize that an electronic cigarette or nicotine vaping device can appear in many forms. Your child might be using one that looks like a pen, “a computer memory stick, a car key fob, or even an asthma inhaler.”
This blog is our way of giving parents and caregivers a special alert about this trend and its danger to oral health. It might be time to have a serious talk about vaping with your teen or pre-teen.
This is not just a fad or fashion. It is a risky bad habit that can affect both oral health and general health. For more information about vaping, we highly recommend this valued online resource.
Thank you for reading the blog at Dentistry for Children. As always, we are committed to bringing you the most recent information involving your child’s dental health.