As more and more people become aware of the negative effects that smoking and using tobacco products can have on their health, including their dental health, many are looking for ways to cut back or quit. Some people try smoking cessation counseling, while others use nicotine patches or gum to help wean themselves off of tobacco products.
More recently, the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has gained popularity. Some people look at vaping as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products.
But are e-cigarettes really safer? Before you start using these products, it’s important to understand exactly what vaping is and what effect, if any, it can have on your teeth or gums.
What is Vaping?
When a person smokes, they inhale smoke from a burning cigarette into their lungs, then exhale the smoke. The smoke contains thousands of chemical compounds, including nicotine, an addictive substance.
Vaping is similar. Except, when someone “vapes,” they inhale water vapor from an electronic cigarette into their lungs. The water vapor also contains thousands of chemical compounds, including nicotine. Many vaping products are flavored to make them taste like tobacco, mint, vanilla and a range of other flavors.
Vaping is often presented as being safer than smoking cigarettes. In some ways, that’s true, as the water vapor often contains fewer toxins than tobacco smoke and exposes people to fewer hazardous chemicals.
But reduced chemical exposure doesn’t mean that there is no chemical exposure. When a person vapes, they are still inhaling plenty of mystery chemicals, as well as a few well-known dangerous ingredients, such as nicotine. Nicotine is known for being very addictive and for interfering with blood flow and the body’s ability to heal. Nicotine also raises blood pressure and can put a person at an increased risk of having a heart attack.
Why Do People Vape?
People vape for a variety of reasons. Some pick it up as a way to cut back on smoking or other tobacco use. Others, particularly young people, pick it up as a “cool” alternative to smoking. In some cases, the flavors available make vaping seem like a better option compared to the unpleasant taste of cigarette smoke.
Although e-cigarettes and vaping devices are sometimes marketed as tools to use to help people quit smoking or cut back on tobacco, the reality is that they are just as addictive as traditional cigarettes.
What Does Vaping Do to the Teeth and Gums?
Traditional tobacco products are known for causing significant damage to the teeth and gums. They not only increase a person’s chance of developing gum disease and cavities, but they also stain the teeth and lead to bad breath.
Is vaping any better for the teeth? Not really, as it turns out. While research is ongoing into the effects of vaping on people’s gums and teeth, some preliminary studies have found that using e-cigarettes can increase a person’s risk for inflammation of the gums, which can lead to gum disease over time.
Vaping can also contribute to dry mouth, which can create an environment in the mouth that’s more hospitable to bacteria. You need saliva to rinse bacteria and food particles off of the surface of the teeth. When saliva production decreases, bacteria can grow and thrive, increasing your risk of infection in the mouth.
Nicotine, the same ingredient in tobacco products that causes so much trouble in the mouth, is also found in vaping products. Nicotine disrupts blood flow and can prevent oxygen from reaching the gums. When they aren’t getting an adequate amount of oxygen, the gums aren’t functioning at their best. That means they are more likely to recede over time.
What You Can Do About Vaping or Tobacco Use
If you currently smoke and are looking to cut back or quit, then congratulations. Doing so will not only improve the health of your teeth and gums but your overall health.
That said, trading smoking for vaping isn’t exactly the best idea, as vaping can be just as tricky to quit as smoking in the long run. Your best bet is to speak with your dentist or doctor about your options for quitting smoking or giving up vaping if you currently use e-cigarettes. Quitting nicotine-based products can be difficult, but in the long run, it’s the best thing to do for your overall health.
Your dentist can help you better understand the effects of vaping on your teeth and gums and can help you work on quitting. Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area offering patients custom oral health plans. He can recommend options that work for you and your needs. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.