Despite all the scary news around vaping recently—like how e-cigarettes can explode in your mouth and possibly give you a rare type of pneumonia—sucking on a what looks like USB device still seems to be a trendy thing to do.
And while it’s definitely proving to be just as unhealthy overall as cigarettes are, one specific question seems to come up quite a bit: How does vaping affect your teeth? Is it any better—or possibly worse—than smoking regular cigarettes? We spoke to dental experts to find out.
So, is vaping bad for your teeth or not?
The short answer: It definitely is. To understand why you have to think about how e-cigarettes work: by essentially heating up a liquid (typically nicotine) to turn it into a vapour that you can inhale, Matthew Messina, DDS and spokesperson for the American Dental Association, tells Health. “We’re providing heat in the mouth,” he says, which “changes the bacterial presence in the mouth. It dries the mouth out.”
Dr Messina explains that the warmer mouth temperature that can be caused by vaping creates an environment favourable to harmful bacteria. Vaping can lead to dental decay (aka cavities), bone loss, and inflamed gum tissue, he adds. Deepak Saxena, PhD and associate professor at NYU College of Dentistry, also expresses concern about the effects of vaping on the mouth—specifically inflammation—that can make your mouth even more susceptible to infection.
Well, are e-cigs better for your teeth than normal cigarettes?
Honestly, probably not. “It’s important to stress the fact that while vaping is new and is being actively studied, we have to consider vaping and cigarette smoking relatively the same, as far as the effects on the teeth and gum tissues,” says Dr Messina. That’s because there’s still a heat element. “[The] rate of tooth decay increases, sometimes dramatically, if we dry the mouth out.”
Unfortunately, vaping will also “cause a darkening of the teeth,” says Dr Messina. That’s because, while e-cigarettes don’t contain tar, they do still contain nicotine—and nicotine adds to tooth discolouration. “Nicotine will stain teeth. It also sticks to the enamel and makes it rougher, so that plaque and other coloured things will stick more readily and build up.”
And, while research still needs to be done on any other possible ways vaping can damage teeth—possibly through flavouring agents that many e-cigarettes contain—one thing’s for sure, according to Dr Messina: “To say vaping is a safe alternative to cigarette smoking isn’t a true statement.”
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