New Research About E-Cigarettes and Oral Health

It is often thought that electronic cigarettes are a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes, but according to a recent Medical News Today article, in terms of oral health, vaping could be just as harmful as smoking. New research shows that the chemicals in electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) vapor were just as damaging to mouth cells as tobacco smoke. Actually, in some cases, it was found more damaging, causing issues such as gum disease, tooth loss, and mouth cancer.

E-cigarettes are devices that contain a heating device and a cartridge that holds a liquid solution. When the user “puffs” on the device, the heating device vaporizes the liquid which is then inhaled. The liquid solution does not contain harmful tobacco, but it does contain nicotine and other chemicals, like flavoring agents. Because they are relatively new to the market, the long-term effects of vaping are unknown, however many consider them safer than conventional smoking. Unfortunately, this has led to an increase in the number of e-cigarette users in recent years, especially among young people.

In an effort to address the limited research, a team of scientists exposed the gum tissue of nonsmokers to either tobacco- or menthol-flavored e-cigarette vapor. The tobacco-flavored vapor contained 16 milligrams of nicotine, and the menthol flavor contained 13-16 milligrams of nicotine or no nicotine. Analysis of the data showed that all e-cigarette vapor causes damage to the gum tissue cells that compared to that caused by exposure to tobacco smoke.

“We showed that when vapors from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins, which in turn aggravate stress within cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases,” said Irfan Rahman, Ph.D.

The researchers also noted that while nicotine is a known contributor to gum disease, the e-cigarette flavoring appeared to exacerbate the cell damage, with menthol-flavored vapor causing the most harm. More research is needed to further investigate the long-term effects of e-cigarette use, but these findings indicate that the devices have negative implications for oral health.

“Overall, our data suggest the pathogenic role of [e-cigarette] aerosol to cells and tissues of the oral cavity, leading to compromised periodontal health,” they conclude.

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