Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently investigated an outbreak of severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes and vaping products in 2019, some of their side effects remain unknown.1 As more and more people experiment with vaping products, many have wondered: is vaping bad for your teeth? Our Pompano treatment center shares more on vaping and dental health.
Vaping refers to inhaling a vapor created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette), vape pen, or other vaping devices. E-cigarettes are battery-operated smoking devices that contain cartridges filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and a variety of chemicals. The liquid in the cartridge is heated into a vapor which the person inhales, hence the term “vaping.” Vaping devices are commonly used by middle, high school, and college students, mostly because they can be easily hidden from parents and other school officials. In 2015, a USB-sized device was created by Juul, which sells other vaping devices that also look like smartwatches, hoodies, and other basic items that a student may carry around.
Vaping is a fairly recent discovery in the smoking world, which is why so little is known about it. The practice has now expanded beyond students with adults turning to vape pens to kick their cigarette smoking. However, some experts believe that the toxic chemicals in e-cigarette cartridges are contributing to the respiratory issues mentioned earlier, as well as negative dental effects from vaping. Moreover, while many believe this practice is neither addictive or harmful, that’s not true. E-cigarette and vaping products do contain nicotine, and while the concentrations of nicotine may not be as high as in regular cigarettes, dependence and physical damage are still likely to occur.
So, is vaping bad for your teeth? Yes. The question: why? The chemicals or ingredients in the cartridges that are heated to create the vapor are believed to cause damage to oral health. One of the ingredients used in vape cartridges, propylene glycol (PG), is a colorless and harmful chemical that is broken down into acetic acid, lactic acid, and propionaldehyde when vaped. These chemicals are toxic to tooth enamel and soft tissue in the mouth. When a person vapes or uses an e-cigarette, the water molecules in saliva and oral tissue bond to PG, causing dry mouth or xerostomia. Consistent or long-term dry mouth can lead to burning mouth syndrome and thrush. Plaque and bacteria may also build up at the base of the teeth and gum, causing bad breath, gum disease, and mouth sores. A person can also experience tooth decay and black teeth from vaping.
Another ingredient used in vape pens is vegetable glycerin (VG) and flavorings. Vegetable glycerin is around 60 percent as sweet as sucrose but isn't known to cause cavities because it isn’t metabolized by cariogenic bacteria. Cariogenic bacteria is associated with dental caries, which is a disease in which bacteria ferment carbohydrates, producing acid and breaking down minerals in teeth. However, this changes when vegetable glycerin and flavorings are combined. When this happens, biofilm formation and microbial adhesion to enamel increase, softening the enamel and making it easier for cavity-causing bacteria to stick to teeth. Over time, this can lead to tooth decay.
Additionally, another culprit that contributes to the negative effects of vaping on teeth is nicotine, which is the addictive component found in most tobacco products. Although the dose of nicotine is typically smaller than traditional tobacco products, it still affects oral health by altering blood flow to gum tissue, decreasing tissue turnover or its ability to heal, and impacting overall cell function. This damage increases the likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease. Nicotine also stains teeth, rarely a preferable side effect.
According to a review of vaping and teeth or dental health by the Public Consensus of E-Cigarettes, vaping aerosols can increase DNA damage and inflammation, preventing them from dividing and growing. As a result, cells in the mouth that are damaged may be inhibited from dividing and growing, causing them to die.2 To sum it up, vaping is bad for teeth because the chemicals in the cartridges that are heated to produce vapors can cause dry mouth, break down minerals in teeth, break down tooth enamel, and even affect cell multiplication and growth, all of which can lead to tooth decay, mouth sores, and gum disease.
Vaping is dangerous and can lead to more than just dental problems. This practice is also known to affect the lungs and respiratory health. The use of vape pens also opens the door to other forms of substance abuse, especially among kids in middle and high school. Vaping is often used as a “fad” or way to fit in socially until further drug use is expected.