While it has long been accepted that smoking or chewing tobacco has a detrimental effect on teeth and general oral health, there is little current discussion about the potential ill effects of e-cigarettes. But 12 percent of adult Americans say that they have at least tried e-cigarettes, and one fifth of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have tried them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
E-cigarettes are still a relatively new phenomenon, with less than four percent of Americans say they turn regularly to vaping. Although studies on the health effects have been undertaken, there are few definitive findings to date. The bottom line is that many questions still exist about whether this “healthier alternative” causes any concerns for overall health, and particularly for human gums, mouths and teeth.
At this point, it is really anyone’s guess whether the vapor is harmless or not.
What, Exactly, Is An E-Cigarette?
E-cigarettes simulate smoking by generating an almost odorless vapor, a chemical reaction that requires no flame. E-cigarettes actually contain nicotine dissolved in a solution of propylene glycol, glycerol and added flavorings. An integral battery generates heat, causing the liquid to be atomized into vapor and then inhaled. E-cigarettes and other vaping devices do not contain proven carcinogenic substances like arsenic or vinyl chloride, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, and they do not produce the tar and toxic gases associated with tobacco smoke. Some authorities caution that secondhand smoke of any kind can be dangerous, however, and the possibility exists that the vapor may contain formaldehyde, benzene, heavy metals and other carcinogens.
Nicotine delivered to the body in any form is considered a highly addictive drug.
Initial evidence points to the fact that using e-cigarettes is not a totally effective way to quit smoking tobacco. In fact, e-cigarettes may actually lead users to traditional cigarettes and to other addictive behaviors, thereby magnifying the risks. There are also some initial health concerns, including potential damage to heart and lungs, brain or developmental abnormalities, problems with pregnancy and fetal development, and even cancerous tumor growth.
What Regulations and Restrictions Exist?
The laws are changing. Where at one time there were no federal restrictions and all regulation was at the state level, the FDA now requires that e-cigarettes be sold with a warning label that lists nicotine as an ingredient and discloses its addictive effects. The age limit for purchasing the products in most states is 18, with proper identification.
There are fewer restrictions on use, however. In some cases, although minors cannot legally buy e-cigarettes, there are no penalties for possession or use of vaping devices. That too is changing, albeit slowly. Incidents of use by children as young as age seven have been reported.
What About Oral Health?
At this point, there simply is no evidence that can point definitively in one direction or the other about the effects of vaping on oral health. What is known beyond any doubt, however, is that a healthy mouth is a component of overall wellness, and that medical conditions that affect other organs and body systems can have an adverse effect on gums and teeth.
More study is definitely needed on the direct consequences of vaping, but that will take time. If you’re concerned about your family’s well-being, and about maintaining strong teeth and a healthy smile, perhaps it’s a smart move to forego not only traditional tobacco usage, but also this new brand of smoking. Vaping may have become mainstream, but it’s a long way from being declared a healthy option.
Just as your primary care physician and dental professional have no doubt encouraged their patients to give up smoking, most would probably now advise patients to be wary of turning to e-cigarettes. Because vaping has become a new dilemma for parents of teenagers, the best advice is probably to be completely honest about the unknown aspects of e-cigarettes and long-term health effects.
A report prepared by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine provides a comprehensive discussion of findings from numerous studies. It contains some of the most current information available and is a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about the pros and cons of vaping.
Considering the Benefits: A Different View
On the positive side, there is data to confirm that heavy smokers who turn to e-cigarettes can expect to see some health benefits, among them a reduction in blood pressure numbers, cardiovascular problems and some respiratory diseases. In addition, while most people experience some weight gain when they give up smoking, those who entirely substitute vaping for smoking seem better able to maintain a normal weight.
There may be few good reasons to take up the habit, however. It is also true that public places, including airlines, government buildings, restaurants and offices that ban tobacco also are prone to disallow vaping. And there is also the cost to consider.
Until all the data is in and analyzed, there simply is not enough information to offer up a verdict.
If you have additional questions about how vaping affects your oral health, or how diet, exercise and a positive attitude contribute to lasting wellness, be sure to ask us. At Briglia Dental Group, we do much more than simply polish your pearly whites, fill cavities and help you maintain a beautiful smile! We are concerned about the health of your mouth and the well-being of your whole body.
Why not schedule an appointment right now for a routine checkup? Let’s see what we can do together to focus on overall health and wellness!