To Vape or Not to Vape
The phenomenon of e-cigarette use and vaping has been on the rise in the US population in part due to the false perception that they are safer than conventional cigarettes. New studies are showing increasingly mounting evidence that vaping may have a more negative impact on our oral and overall health. More interestingly, vaping seems to have a greater effect on young healthy adults than cigarettes.

“We have long known that nicotine, whether smoked or vaped,” decreases blood flow to the gums, causing periodontal disease. Vaping fluids, in addition to nicotine, also include propylene glycol, benzene, formaldehyde, glycerol and other chemicals that increase the risk even more. Vaping doubles your risk of gum disease and oral infection. Gum disease is normally an adult disease but we are seeing it in much younger people who vape. Gum disease is an inflammatory disease and for vapers, normally healthy bacteria (our normal flora) become coated in a slimy layer that triggers an inflammatory response from our immune system. Although nicotine has its own poor effect on blood flow, the strong inflammatory response tied to the glycol or glycerol in e-cigarettes that carry the nicotine and flavors in the vape. Therefore, e-cigarettes produce inflammation faster than standard cigarettes and in a younger previously healthy age group.

E-cigarettes were invented in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist as an alternative to smoking. Not because of the popular perception that they are safer but more for the social benefit of vaper vs. smoke. They were later modified with the ability to decrease the nicotine amount in the vaper for help in smoking cessation. Although initially helpful in reducing nicotine dependence, recent studies have shown that E-Cigarette users vape for greater periods of time than smokers, therefore ending up the same or even greater amounts of nicotine ingested. Additionally, next generation E-cigarettes now can be used with enhancements to deliver THC, Methamphetamine, fentanyl, and synthetic cannaboid chemicals. More than 2800 Americans have been hospitalized with lung injuries from E-Cigarette use with 68 confirmed deaths. We also see an increased rate of decay in vapers due to the addition of sweet flavoring and acidity of the vaper. The sweet flavoring attracted many young people to vaping and although the FDA banned many flavored e-cigarettes, many young people were already addicted to the nicotine. In December 2019, the American Dental Association urged a ban on e-cigarettes not approved by the FDA for the sole purpose of helping people quit smoking and encouraged more research on the effects of vaping on oral and overall health.

I have no current research to support this, but my theory is that years down the road, we will find that e-cigarettes are even worse for us than conventional cigarettes. While smoking clogs our lungs and increases our risk of oral throat and lung cancer, I feel that we might find e-cigarettes cause more cancers throughout our body due to the ability of vaping aerosols to get past our lungs through simple osmosis, into our bloodstream to travel throughout our body. Some early studies are well on their way to showing delitirous heart and cancer risk.
1.) Toxicology of E-Cigarette Constituents review of students
2.) Are E-Cigarettes less Dangerous to Oral Health Than Cigarettes 2020 Kumar, Dr. Purnima BDS ’05 MS ’05 PhD OSU
3.) Vaping and Oral Health, 2020 Stinson, Dr. Crystal DDS ’14, MS’16, PhD ‘17