Many smokers have turned to e-cigarettes as an alternative to conventional cigarettes made of rolled paper and dried tobacco leaves. They feel they can stay healthier and maintain their bright smile with this alternative. However, many health organizations are concerned about the health and dental implications of these devices.

Popularity is growing

The E-cigarette, short for electronic cigarette, is growing dramatically among adolescents. Those who indulge in the practice face unique dental health problems. A survey done by government health regulators in 2018 found as many as 6.8 percent of all students in grades 6 – 12 have tried e-cigarettes at least one time. The number of middle school kids trying e-cigarettes for the first time increased to 2.7 percent from 2017; 20.3 percent of these young, first-time e-cigarette users said they had not yet tried conventional cigarettes. This experimentation occurs at an age when kids are at greater risk for tooth and gum disease because they are getting braces, go through phases in their diligence to oral hygiene, and are getting the last of their permanent teeth.

What is an E-Cigarette?

These battery-powered devices that look like conventional cigarettes produce doses of steamed materials to the user. The devices contain a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution. Depending on the brand of e-cigarettes, the liquid solutions may contain nicotine and flavorings, even cannabis. We know that Nicotine stains teeth. Additionally, a recent study suggests an association between nicotine and periodontal disease (gum disease). Nicotine is just as addictive in e-cigarettes like tobacco cigarettes.

Types of E-Cigarettes

While all conventional cigarettes contain nicotine, some e-cigarettes solutions do not have the addictive drug. But, many others can deliver more nicotine than a traditional cigarette. Many manufacturers offer e-cigarettes that look like conventional rolled cigarettes that contain tobacco. Some produce pen-like e-cigarette devices that look pretty different from conventional cigarettes. Other names for e-cigarettes include electronic vaping devices, personal vaporizers or VPs, and electronic nicotine delivery systems, otherwise known as ENDS.

Oral Evidence of Vaping

One look inside a vaper’s mouth usually tells the story.
Periodontal disease occurs as an adult, but we see it in preteens and teens. Younger people usually have more saliva than they need, so when a young patient has a dry mouth, swelling, and redness of gum tissue or increased complaints of mouth ulcers, our next question is, ‘Do you vape?’ These symptoms are all tied to components in e-cigarettes.”

Researchers are Concerned

The overall effect of e-cigarette use on public health is still unknown. Government agencies note that some researchers are concerned about the impact these devices can have on adolescents’ developing brains, an increased risk for addiction, and the potential for e-cigarettes to become a gateway to conventional tobacco use.

E-Cigarette Use is on the Rise

The FDA extended its regulatory power to include e-cigarettes, e-liquid, and all related products in 2016. Even so, in 2018, more than 3 million high school students used an e-cigarette, while 2 million students used them in 2017 and just 220,000 students in 2011. About 570,000 middle school students used an e-cigarette within the past 30 days, but only 60,000 students in 2011.

Is an E-Cigarette a Good Alternative to Tobacco?

Anyone considering switching to e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes should consult with our office and your physician to discuss the overall health risks. Share this conversation with your family.