By Dr. Perry Francis, Wild About Smiles
We were pleased to hear of our government’s plans to finally ban flavored e-cigarettes, following the news of more deaths and illnesses linked to vaping.
Something that is not talked about as much is the overwhelming danger vaping can also have on our oral health. As I have spent most of my career working with children and young adults, I don’t typically see as much nicotine damage as my dental associates who work with older patients. Unfortunately, that has changed with the advent of e-cigarettes.
While vaping has been mass marketed as a safe alternative to cigarettes, I am here to tell you: It is no such thing. And given its huge popularity with young people, we should all be very concerned. As the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) shares, vaping increased 78 percent among high school students and 49 percent among middle school students between 2017 and 2018. Kid-friendly flavors like cotton candy and chocolate make them even more popular with young people.
The CDC released a health advisory on August 30, 2019 urging people to avoid e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. And the American Academy of Pediatrics has made similar recommendations. While the Federal Drug Administration has been discussing restrictions since 2014, many states are passing their own laws, with 17 states raising the age for purchasing tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. In the last legislative session, the Nevada Assembly passed a similar bill, but, unfortunately, it did not make it through the Senate. San Francisco has taken it even further by passing an ordinance banning the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes citywide.
E-cigarettes and oral health
I suppose the good news in all this is that researchers are finally starting to study the effects of e-cigarettes on our health. Preliminary research already dispels the myth that e-cigarettes are in any way a healthy alternative to cigarettes.
Propylene glycol (a liquid alcohol that’s often used in food processing because of its ability to mix well with flavoring ingredients) can lead to dry mouth, which (when chronic) can cause cavities and gum disease. It breaks down into acetic acid, lactic acid and propionaldehyde — all of which are known to deteriorate tooth enamel and soft tissues.
Studies have shown that the combination of vegetable glycerin with flavorings produces a fourfold increase in microbial adhesion to enamel and a twofold increase in biofilm formation. In other words, e-liquid allows more cavity-causing bacteria to stick to a softer tooth and can lead to rampant decay.
Although the percentage of nicotine in e-cigarettes is lower (0.3 – 1.8 percent) than traditional tobacco products, one electronic cartridge (200–400 puffs) can equal smoking two to three packs of regular cigarettes. Nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream as soon as it is inhaled, so all blood vessels become smaller, including your heart and gums. This is why people that regularly use nicotine tend to have increased heart and gum disease.
It is estimated that 2,035 e-cigarette explosions and burn injuries (most around the mouth) occurred in the United States between 2015 and 2017—more than 40 times the initial estimate by the U.S. government. These injuries are serious and often lead to
The bottom line? If you value your health and your beautiful smile, you’ll treat e-cigarettes as dangerous as traditional cigarettes. Please keep them out of your mouth and away from your children.
Dr. Perry Francis, his wife
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