Potential dangers of e-cigarettes

Whilst the risks of regular cigarettes have been well researched and documented for many years, the potential harms of E-cigarettes are still quite unknown comparatively. Electronic cigarettes are widely available and their use is increasing hugely. They are generally promoted as a safer alternative to combustible cigarettes and can provide the smokers with the desired nicotine dose without burning tobacco. Whilst evidence suggests the use of E-cigarettes instead of regular cigarettes can reduce the adverse general and oral health effects, there are still serious concerns over their long term use. There is also concern that giving the impression that these products are ‘harmless’ is worrying, especially for young people.

What is vaping?

An E-cigarette consists of a cylinder with a cartridge that serves as a reservoir for vaping with a mouthpiece. Liquids used in E-cigarettes are regulated and these liquids, with or without nicotine, are available in small sealed bottles. They transfer nicotine from the device to the user’s airways in the form of aerosol. They have provided smokers with a new alternative way to acquire nicotine.

What do we know?

There are several known potential adverse health effects from the prolonged use of E-cigarettes and vaping.

  • Dry mouth; one of the ingredients is propylene glycol which can cause dryness of the mouth. Persistent dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, bad breath and mouth sores.
  • Increased bacteria quantity; leading to problems such as cavities and gum disease.
  • Gum diseases; the largest cause of gum disease is nicotine exposure.
  • Oral and facial trauma; besides affecting oral and general health, there have been incidents reported of oral and facial trauma caused by explosions and fires from E-cigarette devices. While these incidents are exceptionally rare they are still a huge cause for concern.

Lead investigator of a recent study, Silvia Balbo, was quoted saying ‘It’s clear that more carcinogens arise from the combustion of tobacco in regular cigarettes than from the vapor of E-cigarettes however, we don’t really know the impact of inhaling the combination of compounds produced by these devices. Just because the threats are different doesn’t mean that they are completely safe’.

In the UK, Public Health England published an update and concluded that ‘vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and completely switching from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits’.

Smoking generally damages your mouth’s ability to fight infection, depleting your defence mechanism. We have read reports that suggest that the nicotine from vaping can inhibit and mask periodontal disease. There is also concern for the possible health impairment because of an association with mysterious lung disease.

E-cigarettes may also have adverse effects on teeth and tooth supporting tissue with the aerosol coming into direct contact with the teeth potentially affecting the tooth structure. There have been reports of gingival pain and /or bleeding, tongue pain and cheek pain. All of these findings show E-cigarettes can potentially have negative effects on tooth structure and aesthetics.

With other reports finding cases of sores, ulcers, headaches and more cold symptoms smoking generally and the potential detrimental harms of vaping is a global health issue with numerous experimental and clinical investigations linking tobacco use with over 25 diseases including lung, heart and oral diseases such as oral cancer.

How can we minimise the side effects of vaping?

Ongoing research suggests vaping poses fewer oral health risks than smoking cigarettes , nevertheless, it is still incredibly important to maintain good oral health when using E-cigarettes.

  • Opt for low nicotine or nicotine free liquids
  • Avoid a dry mouth by drinking water
  • Brush teeth twice a day to prevent cavities and keep up good oral health
  • Using mouthwash to reduce bacteria
  • Visit Kingswood Parks on a regular basis for early detection of any conditions

Routine Adult Dental Health Check – Kingswood Parks Dental (kingswoodparksclinics.co.uk)

It does seem clear that there are huge health benefits of vaping over smoking, however it is also crystal clear that refraining from the use of any nicotine at all is the best solution in maintaining optimum oral health.

If you need help or advice to quit smoking or vaping you can contact your GP, visit the NHS website for various links and discuss with your clinician here at Kingswood Parks Clinics.