For many individuals who want to find a way to give up regular cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, often seem like a great alternative. They don’t produce any smoke and they don’t contain any tobacco, although they do have nicotine, which is derived from tobacco plants. E-cigs are battery powered, producing an aerosol that can be inhaled so they can be used nearly anywhere. The problem – there aren’t a lot of studies on electronic cigarettes, so we don’t know as much about the health risks they pose like we do with regular cigarettes. Although we still don’t know a lot about the long term oral health effects of electronic cigarettes, here’s a closer look at what we do know.
The Effects of Nicotine on Your Oral Health
Most electronic cigarettes do deliver a dose of nicotine, and there are many studies that do show that nicotine can do a lot of damage to your gums, tongue, and mouth. Some of the effects of nicotine on oral health include:
- Masking the Symptoms of Gum Disease – Nicotine has the ability to hide some of the common symptoms of gum disease, making it tougher for it to be diagnosed. Generally, with gum disease, there’s an increase in blood flow to the gums that can result in swelling and irritation that causes gums to bleed. Since nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, it reduces the blood flowing through veins, which can make it tougher to spot the signs of gum disease.
- Causes Gum Recession – Since nicotine reduces the blood that’s able to flow through veins, your gums no longer get all the nutrients and oxygen needed to stay healthy. The tissues of the mouth don’t get the blood needed to survive, which can result in the death or oral tissues, such as the gums. This often results in gum recession.
- May Intensify Teeth Grinding – Nicotine is also a stimulant, and it fires the muscles. For patients who already grind their teeth, it can make grinding even more of a problem. It may even start a grinding problem in individuals who never were grinders in the past.
- Causes Bad Breath and Dry Mouth – Once again, since nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, it can keep the body from producing enough saliva. This can result in the buildup of bacteria within the mouth, causing bad breath. Dry mouth can also lead to tooth decay, since that bacteria isn’t naturally washed away by saliva.
Other Oral Health Dangers of E-Cigs
Recent studies have shown that electronic cigarettes pose some other serious health dangers as well. One recent study found that the vapors from e-cigs can cause the tissues of the mouth to release inflammatory proteins that aggravate stress within the cells, resulting in cell damage. This may lead to the development of oral diseases. Certain flavoring chemicals used in electronic cigarettes may also result in damage to the cells within the mouth as well. Other new studies have found that exposing mouth cells to e-cigarette vapor in a lab resulted in a large amount of those cells dying within just days after exposure.
Committing to Quitting
Whether you’re smoking regular cigarettes or e-cigarettes, the best thing you can do is to commit to quit smoking. While you may not get as much nicotine from an e-cig, it still has the potential to damage your oral health and your overall health. If you feel like you need help to quit, you can always talk to your dentist or your physician to discuss some of the smoking cessation options that are available today.
How Your Dentist Can Help
Even if you stop smoking traditional cigarettes or electronic cigarettes, you may still deal with some oral health consequences from previously smoking. Tooth loss and tooth decay are common problems among individuals who have smoked. Your dentist can help you combat these problems and come up with the right oral health solutions for your needs so you can enjoy a healthier, more beautiful smile. Call today to schedule your appointment to get on you way to the healthy smile you want.