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By Chrissy Boothroyd & Chie Li Ee, DMD

Tobacco remains a leading cause of oral cancer, but e-cigarettes that are often marketed as being safer options and “better for you” may not be so safe after all. They are also marketed as a tool to help quit smoking. Smokers who used e-cigarettes to help them quit were 59% less likely to stop than those who didn't.

E-cigarettes are containers filled with liquid that's usually made of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. A heating device turns the liquid into vapor that you inhale. E-cigarette levels of nicotine and other ingredients vary widely within and between brands. The flavors used often contain toxic chemicals that include: heavy metals such as nickel, tin, cadmium, and lead; volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde and benzene, which are known to cause cancer. Another popular flavoring that adds a buttery taste (caramel and popcorn), known as diacetyl, causes a lung disease known as popcorn lung when inhaled. Researchers have found approximately 92% of e-cigarettes studied have at least one of three chemicals known to cause popcorn lung.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports e-cigarette poisonings are rapidly increasing.  Ingestion of the liquids can cause acute toxicity and possibly death. Studies have also revealed that many of these chemicals may modify the DNA of oral cells and increase the risk of cancer and kill a large number of cells in the mouth. Damage to the defensive barrier in the mouth can increase the risk of infection, inflammation and gum disease. They also deliver a high quantity of nanoparticles that are known to trigger inflammation and are linked to diabetes, heart disease, asthma, stroke, and other chronic conditions. Another recent study has shown that the vapor from e-cigarettes is making certain bacterial infections more resistant to antibiotics and allows a faster growth rate of the bacterial cells.

E-cigarettes may damage teeth and gums as much as traditional cigarettes. Nicotine has long been known to cause gum disease and most e-cigarettes still contain nicotine. This significantly reduces blood flow, restricting the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the soft tissues of the mouth. Vaping also can cause dry mouth which leads to tooth decay. Reduced blood circulation also inhibits the mouth’s natural ability to fight against bacteria. Infection, decay rates, and other problems all can be accelerated. Over an extended period of time, tooth loss and other health problems can result from vaping. Vaping is a personal choice, but vapers should be aware of the risks.  

Regular check-ups and dental cleanings will help you protect your teeth and gums. To learn more, contact Cape May Dental Associates at (609) 884-5335 and schedule an appointment with us!