The effects of smoking tobacco and smokeless tobacco on oral health are well known and include bad breath, tooth discoloration, increased risk of oral cancer, and increased risk of gum disease and bone loss within the jaw.
But we don’t know much about a new, growing trend in smoking — e-cigarettes. And it’s worrisome, particularly because their use is increasing among teenagers. In fact, a new federal study found that e-cigarette use among teens has surpassed the use of traditional cigarettes. A survey found that 17 percent of 12th graders reported using an e-cigarette during the last month, compared with 13.6 percent who reported having a traditional cigarette.
What are e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are basically electronic nicotine delivery systems. The cartridge contains nicotine, propylene glycol and a battery. When you inhale, the atomizer is heated and vaporizes the liquid as it is brought through the mouthpiece. The nicotine cartridges come in a variety of flavors — cherry, vanilla, etc. — which, of course, makes this more appealing to young people.
Are e-cigarettes safer than smoking conventional cigarettes?
Evidence suggests that the levels of dangerous chemicals e-cigarettes give off are less than with conventional cigarettes. However, the Food and Drug Administration has questioned their safety. Essentially, they have not been in existence long enough for long-term effects to be well known.
What are the effects of e-cigarettes on oral health?
There have been very few studies on the effects of e-cigarettes on oral health; however, one study in 2011 did find some adverse oral effects on subjects who had smoked e-cigarettes for four weeks:
- Six percent of patients reported mouth irritation
- Eight percent noted sore throat and dry mouth
- Nine percent reported mouth ulcers.
After 8 weeks of use, 8 percent reported a dry cough, and after 24 weeks, 8 percent complained of throat irritation and 7 percent had dry mouth.
Overall, the incidence of adverse oral effects was small, but it appears that ENDS use does exert negative effects on the oral cavity. The effect of ENDS on periodontal diseases and healing has not been researched. More study is needed in order to identify the long-term effects of ENDS on the environment, the body, and the oral cavity.
Essentially, not a lot is known about e-cigarettes, and there is more research to be done. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes for Health, has proposed more research in order to fill the gap and better inform consumers, professionals and regulators about the effects of e-cigarette aerosol mixtures on the mouth, gums and the rest of the oral cavity.
If you smoke e-cigarettes or conventional cigarettes, or use smokeless tobacco regularly, please inform your dental health professional at Enlighten Dental Care and let us know of any side effects you may be experiencing.