Smoking tobacco. We all know it’s bad for our lungs and teeth. Smoking tobacco drastically increases a person’s risk for lung and oral cancer. It also causes people to have more dental plaque which often leads to gum disease. If the smoker already has gum disease, their habit causes it to get worse more quickly than in non-smokers. This often leads to chronic bad breath (halitosis) and permanent tooth loss.
But, that’s why they invented e-cigarettes. Right?
Its true sales of traditional cigarettes have fallen sharply over the last few years while sales of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. They’re viewed by many people as a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Since there’s no tobacco, they believe that cancer and other tobacco-related diseases are not a risk. And they’re wrong.
E-cigarettes are not healthier. New research shows smoking e-cigarettes (vaping) isn’t healthier than smoking tobacco.
What is Vaping?
Vaping simply means smoking an e-cigarette. E-cigarettes use an aerosol, or vapor, to deliver nicotine into the lungs. The term vaping, rather than smoking, is used because e-cigs don’t produce tobacco smoke. They produce an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor that actually consists of fine particles. Many of these particles contain toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, respiratory disease, and heart disease.
Health Risks of Vaping
No tobacco does not mean no nicotine. Since nicotine is delivered via vaping, all of the health problems associated with nicotine are still there.
Nicotine is an addictive substance that’s also a carcinogen. A carcinogen is simply a substance that’s known to cause cancer.
Nicotine is known to promote tumor growth in the following:
- Lung cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Breast cancer
While vaping hasn’t been around long, early studies of its effects are concerning. Short-term data shows vaping:
- Impacts the health of your lungs and DNA
- Damages your blood cells
- Increases your risk of heart disease
- Negatively impacts your immune system
Dental Health Risks of Vaping
That nicotine again. Not your friend. Here are some oral health specific issues associated with nicotine:
- Nicotine reduces the amount of blood that can flow through your veins. Without sufficient blood flow, your gums don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy. In a way, nicotine chokes out tissues in the mouth from the blood it needs to survive, causing the death of gum tissues. And that’s how it causes your gums to recede.
- Nicotine prevents your body from producing saliva. Not enough saliva leads to bacteria buildup, dry mouth, and tooth decay.
- Nicotine acts as a stimulant that fires up the muscles. If you already grind your teeth (bruxism), it can make it worse. If you aren’t a teeth grinder, you may start. Bruxism is a condition in which you regularly grind, gnash, or clench your teeth. When left untreated, bruxism can lead to tooth damage and other oral health complications.
Since vaping introduces nicotine into your body just like smoking tobacco, it does increase your risk for gum disease. Common symptoms of gum disease include:
- Ongoing bad breath (halitosis)
- Red, irritated, or bleeding gums
- Tender or swollen gums
- Wiggly or loss of teeth
- Recession of gum tissue
The takeaway here is that vaping has health risks. It’s a misperception to believe that e-cigarettes are healthier than tobacco cigarettes.
If you’re a smoker or vaper, it’s extremely important to stay on top of your regular dental check-ups.
Want to learn more?
Talk to your physician or dentist. They’ll help you get on the path towards a healthier you.
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Glantz, Stanton A. First evidence of long-term health damage from ecigs: Smoking E-Cigarettes Daily Doubles Risk of Heart Attacks. UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education Press Release. Feb 24, 2018.
Mishra, Aseem, et al. Harmful effects of nicotine. Indian Journal of Medical and Pediatric Oncology. 2015 Jan-Mar; 36(1): 24–31. doi: 10.4103/0971-5851.151771