Vaping, the colloquial term for using an e-cigarette to consume nicotine or cannabis products, is increasingly common among young people. Having been raised on the message that smoking is bad, many see vaping as an opportunity to experience the forbidden without the health risks. Meanwhile, current or former smokers seeking to reduce the potential dangers of their behavior are switching to vaping to get the chemical benefits without the toxic harms.
The appeal of vaping is so wide that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 10 Americans have used an e-cigarette and a significant portion of them continue to use them after that first exposure. Unfortunately, what most overlook is that while vaping is less likely to cause damage at a cellular level, particularly in the lungs, it can still cause mouth cancer and other oral health problems. If you care about your oral health – and its implications for overall well being – it’s time to reconsider your vaping habit.
Heat Affects Health
One of the most fundamental ways by which vaping impacts oral health is through the application of heat to the gums since, of course, to create vapor you need heat. This heat causes cell death and inflammation that is almost identical to the oral affects of cigarette smoke. The combination of toxins and high heat is dangerous no matter the source.
Besides increasing cell death, the oral damage caused by vaping can make you more vulnerable to oral infections and gum disease. And since your mouth’s circulatory system is closely connected to overall health, damage to cells in your mouth can trigger systemic disease, particularly cardiovascular and autoimmune issues.
Know Your Nicotine
Another important factor e-cigarette users should consider when choosing to engage in this behavior is that vaping solutions still contain nicotine – the active, addictive ingredient in cigarettes. In addition to being addictive, though, nicotine can cause reduced blood flow to the gums, causing the gums to recede and potentially leading to teeth grinding, as nicotine is a muscle stimulant.
Reduced blood flow to the mouth not only damages the gums but also causes dry mouth and coughing, and with insufficient saliva comes an increased risk of cavities and general tooth decay. Without saliva, bacteria aren’t washed away from the teeth but rather collect and colonize the area, breaking down healthy tissue.
The Tooth-Health Link
Ultimately, though the average individual is still unaware of the dangers associated with poor oral health, new studies demonstrate just how closely linked they are. For example, a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association linked poor oral health with premature death in older women. Poor oral health includes loss of natural teeth, oral infections, and other forms of gum disease and the risk was sustained regardless of whether or not the women regularly went to the dentist. These issues are precisely of the sort vaping can cause, yet most assume such damage is restricted to traditional cigarettes.
As for younger individuals – as vaping is especially popular among teens and young adults – periodontitis or gum disease, associated with gingivitis, has been shown to trigger autoimmune problems. This occurs because vaping’s negative impact on oral blood flow allows bacteria to get into the blood stream, creating extensive inflammation. Where there is inflammation, there is always the potential for the immune system to go astray.
Vaping may be comparatively less dangerous than smoking cigarettes or cigars, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe or healthy behavior. It’s one thing to use vaping as a stepping stone to quitting smoking, but don’t use one to replace the other. You’ll be setting yourself up for a lifetime of bad oral health.