E-cigarettes have become super popular over the past few years as a “cleaner” alternative to traditional cigarettes (or even chewing tobacco). Rather than using fire to create smoke and release noxious chemicals as with a regular cigarette, e-cigarettes are battery-powered and produce water vapor. Still, e-cigarettes are a vehicle for delivering nicotine into your body, so can they affect your oral health like a regular cigarette can?
The short answer is: we don’t really know yet. Researchers have been investigating the effects of tobacco and nicotine on oral and overall health for decades, and the risks and harms are very well known at this point. And, while e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and produce no smoke, they simply haven’t been around enough for anyone to fully evaluate the potential harms.
With that being said, e-cigarettes aren’t necessarily as innocent as proponents would like you to think. Regardless of its delivery method, nicotine still has a detrimental effect on your oral health, especially when it comes to your gums. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, making it harder for blood to get to your gums and oral cavity. This causes the tissues to weaken and recede, leading to tooth loss, gingivitis and periodontitis in extreme cases. Unhealthy gums can also become inflamed in a way that makes it look like they aren’t receding, and only by checking the pockets between the teeth and gums can your dentist get a real sense of what’s going on.
Finally, nicotine consumption can reduce saliva production, meaning your mouth won’t be able to clean itself as efficiently. This can cause a buildup of bacteria which can damage the teeth and gums, leading to cavities as well as tooth and gum decay.
Although overall e-cigarettes seem to be less harmful than regular cigarettes, they aren’t risk-free due to the fact that are still used to deliver nicotine into your system. We also simply don’t know enough about the long-term effects of e-cigarettes to truly evaluate the risks. It is always best to stop using nicotine, though many people find the gentler effects of e-cigarettes to help them transition from being a smoker to a non-smoker, so in that way, they can be a beneficial tool. Have you used an e-cigarette before? Let us know about your experience in the comments!