vaping gum disease, clinical trials

Can Vaping Cause Cavities and Gum Disease?

While smoking has become less popular over the past few decades, vaping, or using electronic cigarettes, has become much more common, especially among young people. 

Although many believe e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking, they raise serious questions. 

Can vaping cause cavities? 
Is vaping really safer than smoking? 
How does vaping affect your lungs?

The FDA recently ordered the maker of the most popular e-cigarettes, Juul, to stop selling its vaping products following a number of lawsuits alleging it downplayed the risks in its marketing, especially to teenagers. 

Whether you use vaping devices or you’re concerned about your children using them, it’s important to understand these risks. 

Can vaping cause cavities or gum disease? 

More research is needed to better understand the correlation between vaping and oral health problems. While some dentists believe using vaping as an alternative to smoking may outweigh the risks, early evidence published in a 2021 Journal of Dental Research report shows there’s reason to be concerned.

Recent evidence shows vaping may change the oral microbiome, or the collection of good and bad bacteria that live in your mouth. 

The chemicals in e-liquids can cause dry mouth, which can increase the risk of tooth decay.

These chemicals, including nicotine, cause inflammation and damage to the gums as well as decreased blood flow, which could make users more susceptible to gum disease and tooth loss. 

A review of 65 clinical studies in 2020 found some participants who switched from cigarettes to e-cigarettes reported bleeding in their gums; however, it’s not clear whether this was due to the e-cigarette vapors of the result of quitting smoking.

Another study in South Korea found the risks of e-cigarette users was twice as high as for people who had never used e-cigarettes or cigarettes, while a US study also found an increased risk in gum disease and bone loss.

The sweeteners in vaping liquids may also erode tooth enamel and soft tissue may also could put users at a higher risk of developing cavities. 

Other evidence documented in the 2021 report found e-cigarette users may be at a higher risk of more unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Lesions in the mouth and tongue
  • Throat irritation
  • Cough
  • Broken or cracked teeth
  • Burns on the mouth due to explosive device failures

While research shows a clear link between smoking and gum disease, oral cancer and other health issues, it has been more difficult to study the link between vaping and oral health problems because e-cigarettes have only become popular within the past decade. There are also many different types of vaping devices, and most users are current or former smokers who are already at an increased risk of developing these issues. 

How do vapes work?

Vaping devices, such as vape pens, use a rechargeable battery that heats nicotine liquid to produce vapor the user inhales through a mouthpiece. Users press a button or inhale to activate the atomizer, which burns the liquid in a refillable or disposable cartridge. Unlike cigarette smoke that lingers in the air, the vapor dissipates more quickly. 

Disposable vaping devices, such as Puff Bars or “pod mods”, are also becoming more popular among younger users. Each stick contains about 5% nicotine and enough e-liquid for about 400 puffs. Because they’re designed to be thrown away, there’s no need to charge them. 

Why do kids vape?

About 1 in 10 middle and high school students used e-cigarettes or disposable vaping devices in 2022, according to the FDA. About a fourth of them reported using them every day. A significant percentage of users, especially those who use vaping products containing THC, are under 25, according to the National Institutes of Health. There are several reasons young people may be more drawn to vaping. 

The fact that these products have been marketed to young people as a safer alternative to cigarettes is likely a contributing factor. 

Vapes are also easier to buy online and in specialty stores, and because the vapor fades so fast, they’re easier to hide. The liquids used in vaping products come in a variety of flavors, making them more appealing to younger users. 

Is vaping safer than smoking?

While traditional cigarettes contain thousands of harmful chemicals, it’s less clear exactly what chemicals are in e-cigarettes, Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease said in a recent article

Vaping products have been linked to e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI), a serious illness health officials first identified in 2019. This illness was linked to Vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent used in vaping products that contain THC. The National Institutes of Health reports more than 2,800 people were hospitalized with EVALI, and there were at least 68 reported deaths at the time. 

Other serious health effects, including respiratory issues, rapid heart rate, fever, and gastrointestinal problems, appeared to be more common among those who used vaping products containing THC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since stopped monitoring these cases as they became less frequent and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic took over. 

How does vaping affect your lungs? 

While many of the hospitalizations involved people who used THC vaping products, research shows vaping nicotine is still harmful. Nicotine is highly addictive and increases your blood pressure, which can put you at greater risk of having a heart attack. 

Other chemicals found in vaping products include formaldehyde, which funeral homes use in embalming fluid; acrolein, a chemical used in weed-killer; and benzene, which is found in car exhaust. The U.S. Surgeon General and National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine have issued warnings about the risks of inhaling these chemicals.  

According to the American Lung Association, e-cigarettes can cause coughing, wheezing and potentially more serious lung problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. 

Because vaping is relatively new, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term side effects. 

While more research is needed, the potential impact of vaping on oral health problems and other issues are worth considering for anyone who uses these products or is thinking about using them. 

If you or someone you know uses vaping products and you’d like to participate in a clinical trial investigating the impact on gum disease, visit NeighborhoodTrials.com to find a trial near you.