We’ve heard it all from e-cigarette vapers, “vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes”, “vaping is helping me quit smoking cigarettes”, “vaping contains less chemicals than cigarettes” or “there is no scientific proof that vaping is harmful”. Although these claims are not completely wrong, let’s be real here, it also doesn’t mean they are RIGHT. In the end, arguing those claims only compares the lesser of two evils, which only creates reasons to continue exposing toxins and chemicals into our oral cavity and body posing health risks.
The oral cavity needs to maintain a certain environment to keep your gums, tongue and teeth healthy; bacteria, acidity level, moisture level and amount of saliva need to be constantly managed and maintained by the body for optimum oral health. The oral cavity is very resilient, but it is also quite delicate, and any imbalances can affect the environment of the oral cavity and the health of the gums and teeth. The health of the mouth can be easily influenced by mouth breathing, health conditions, medications, chemotherapy, etc. The mouth can also be influenced by types of food, drinks, bad habits like nail biting, improper teeth brushing to smoking or vaping.
So why can vaping cause problems? Vaping changes the environment in the mouth and it can cause burns, increased plaque accumulation, dry mouth, bad breath, gum inflammation, gum recession, and tooth decay. If you have had any recent oral surgeries or dental implants it may cause complications like irritation, dry socket, a periodontal disease leading to inflammation, bone loss, infection, delayed healing or even implant failure. Since it is proven that e-juice is not just water vapor, but a variety of different chemicals that directly contact the oral tissues, tongue, bronchial and lungs. The atomized e-juice vapors carry ultra fine toxic particles, among a list of harmful chemicals (nicotine, carbonyl compounds, volatile organic compound, sugar, diacetyl in flavoring, etc.) that is absorbed into the blood when it is introduced into the mouth and lungs. For anyone who has recently had any dental surgery or dental implants placed, it poses a significant risk factor for the development of periodontal disease which can lower the chances of successful dental treatment.
“It’s the nicotine found in vapes and tobacco that results in poor wound healing, increases anesthesia risk, and may lead to a host of other potential complications for surgery patients,” said AANA President Bruce Weiner, DNP, MSNA, CRNA.
Although vaping is still very new and no long-term evidences can be proven, as healthcare providers we need to encourage our patients to consider quitting smoking and/or vaping because of the possibility of periodontal disease, oral cancer, and many of the issues noted above that may complicate a favorable treatment outcome. Patient education is always important, especially if they are considering oral surgeries or dental implants since smoking or vaping e-cigarettes as it has direct contact with oral tissues. A lot of patients are not aware of the potential health complications or how it may complicate the healing process in the mouth. Vaping and e-cigarettes are perceived to be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. This is not the case; it may just be the lesser of two evils which leads patients to disregard the potential health complications. Remember in the 1950’s (which wasn’t that long ago) cigarettes were recommended and prescribed by physicians as healthy before long-term research proved otherwise. No one knows what the future holds for vaping, and yes, vaping maybe a good alternative to quitting cigarettes, but it should be seen as a stepping stone instead of a replacement for cigarettes.