When vaping first arrived, for many, it seemed like a healthier alternative to smoking. For non-smokers, the lack of secondhand smoke is definitely an improvement. But is vaping bad for your teeth? The short answer is “Yes,” and here’s why.
What is vaping?
Vaping is shorthand for vaporizing.
This nicotine delivery system uses e-cigarettes instead of traditional rolled tobacco. Nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals sit in a cartridge located in an e-cigarette. The e-cigarette has a heating element that vaporizes the chemicals (hence the term “vaping”).
Instead of toxic carbon monoxide, vapers exhale only water vapor. This makes vaping a safer alternative for non-smokers who are nearby, but it still has negative effects on the smoker. So, how is vaping bad for your teeth?
Can vaping cause tooth decay?
A major concern for e-cigarettes is whether vaping causes tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when an excess of bacteria in the mouth begins to form plaque on the teeth. This sticky film produces acid that begins to eat tooth enamel away over time.
While the major cause of tooth decay is poor oral hygiene, vaping promotes conditions in the mouth that can, in fact, increase your chances of tooth decay.
One of the major risks of vaping is that it can promote dry mouth. Dry mouth is a condition that is a major cause of tooth decay. Saliva sweeps away bacteria that causes tooth decay. Dry mouth leaves more bacteria in the mouth for longer. Not only does this cause bad breath, but it also increases the chances (and severity) of tooth decay.
A new study from the University of California, Los Angeles found that dry mouth is just one of a host of problems that vaping causes. E-cigarettes weaken the cell structure of the oral cavity (the area behind the teeth and gums). Not only does this increase the risk of tooth decay, but it also increases the risk of other severe types of periodontal disease.
Vaping also decreases production of the antioxidant glutathione. This antioxidant is a natural protection against oral disease.
Is vaping without nicotine bad for your teeth?
Some vapers might try to get around the health concerns caused by nicotine by vaping without nicotine. For vapers who are not addicted to nicotine, this provides the psychological, tactile pleasures of smoking. This is not necessarily a safer option.
In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that there was not enough information on e-cigarettes to determine their safety. They noted:
“E-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don’t know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.”
Doubling down, researchers at the University of Connecticut found in 2017 that e-cigarettes were as damaging as traditional cigarettes. Even non-nicotine vaping caused cellular damage due to other chemicals in the cigarette.
Another earlier study found that vaping caused an inflammatory response in the mouth. This response increased in the presence of flavorings. Non-nicotine cigarettes with flavorings put vapers at just as much risk for poor oral health.
There really is no such thing as a “safe” cigarette. With or without nicotine, e-cigarettes cause just as much damage to the overall health of the body (including teeth) as traditional cigarettes.
Could vaping make my gums bleed?
Long-term, e-cigarette use can also affect the health of your gums.
Nicotine consumption restricts blood flow in the entire body. Blood vessels constrict and contract, pulling gums away from teeth. Gaps created between teeth and gums are prime targets for serious periodontal disease, including cavity and abscess.
Receding gums are not the first sign of periodontal disease, though. Vaping and teeth sensitivity are linked as tooth decay eats away enamel and begins to expose sensitive nerves on biting surfaces.
Ironically, because nicotine restricts blood flow, the most common sign of gum disease – bleeding gums – may be masked. Some vapers note that their bleeding gums have stopped since they started vaping. This is not generally a positive sign for those who vape.
Can vaping make your teeth yellow?
Traditional cigarette smokers can see the effects of smoking on their teeth and their fingers long before the stains become permanent. For every cigarette, the snowy white filter gets slowly darker as the ash burns down, and this tar colors teeth.
The major substance that causes tooth discoloration – tar – is not present in e-cigarettes. If there can be a positive other than protecting non-smokers from secondhand smoke, this might be it. Vapers are less likely to see yellow stains on their teeth because of vaping.
Some vapers may still see staining develop over time. E-cigarettes are still relatively new. It is hard to know what the long-term effects will be with regard to vaping teeth stains.
What other health risks are associated with vaping?
Although it is true that the risk from secondhand smoke is not present with vaping, e-cigarettes have most of the same risks as traditional cigarettes in every other way.
As with traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and the nicotine they contain restrict blood flow in the body. This increases a user’s chances of heart attack, stroke, and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Many vapers tout a decrease in asthma. A large-scale study in South Korea thoroughly debunked the notion that vaping has less risk to those with asthma and allergies. A 2016 study of over 35,000 high school students found that e-cigarettes are closely associated with an increase in the number and severity of asthma attacks among users.
Finally, one of the side effects of vaping – dry mouth – brings its own set of problems. Dry mouth associated with vaping can lead to oral cancer. As we age, our mouths naturally become drier, but vaping accelerates this process and leaves young people more vulnerable.
So, to answer the first question: is vaping bad for your teeth? Yes, and your overall oral health. Many of the perceived health benefits with vaping have been debunked.
If you are concerned with vaping teeth stains and other health effects or just have general questions about e-cigarettes and their consequences for your oral health, get in touch today!