A vaping habit may result in a stained smile and more trips to the dentist.
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine researchers discovered that patients who admitted to using vaping devices were more likely to develop cavities. There are a lot of teeth that are at risk because 9.1 million American adults and 2 million teenagers use tobacco-based vaping products, according to CDC studies.
According to Karina Irusa, assistant professor of comprehensive care and the paper’s primary author, the findings of this study on the correlation between vaping and the risk of caries—the dental term for cavities—serve as a warning that this once-seemingly innocent behaviour may be seriously harmful.
The American Dental Association Journal released the findings.
Since the use of vaping devices was associated with lung disease, the public’s awareness of the risks of vaping to overall health has grown. Some dental studies have linked e-cigarette use to higher levels of gum disease indicators and, separately, to erosion of the enamel, the outer layer of the tooth. Irusa claims that even dentists haven’t given much attention to the link between using e-cigarettes and oral health.
Irusa says that the recent Tufts finding maybe just a hint of the damage vaping causes to the mouth. “The extent of the effects on dental health, specifically on dental decay, are still relatively unknown,” she says. “At this point, I’m just trying to raise awareness,” among both dentists and patients.
Irusa claims that this study is the first to precisely look into the link between using e-cigarettes and vaping and a higher risk of developing cavities. More than 13,000 patients over the age of 16 who had treatment at Tufts dentistry clinics between 2019 and 2022 had their data examined by her and her colleagues.
Irusa discovered that there was a statistically significant difference in the risk levels of dental caries between the e-cigarette/vaping group and the control group, even though the vast majority of the patients claimed not to use vapes.
Approximately 79 per cent of the vaping patients and only roughly 60 per cent of the control group were classified as having a high caries risk. Although nicotine-containing devices are more prevalent, the patients who vaped were not questioned whether they utilised THC- or nicotine-containing devices.
“It’s important to understand this is preliminary data,” Irusa says. “This is not 100 per cent conclusive, but people do need to be aware of what we’re seeing.” Further studies need to be done, and Irusa wants to take a closer look at how vaping affects the microbiology of saliva.
The sweet substance and viscosity of vaping liquid, which when aerosolized and subsequently breathed through the mouth, clings to the teeth, is one factor why using e-cigarettes could increase the risk of cavities.
The characteristics of e-cigarettes with sweet flavours have been compared to those of gummy candies and acidic beverages in a 2018 study that was published in the journal PLOS One. It has been demonstrated that vaping aerosols alter the oral microbiota, making germs that cause decay more hospitable. Additionally, it’s been noticed that vaping seems to promote decay in places where it doesn’t typically happen, including the bottom margins of front teeth. It has an aesthetic cost, according to Irusa.
Dentists should frequently inquire about e-cigarette usage as part of a patient’s medical history, according to Tufts researchers. That includes paediatric dentists who treat teenagers; in 2021, 7.6 per cent of middle- and high-school students reported using e-cigarettes, according to the FDA/CDC.
A “more stringent caries care approach” that can include prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste and fluoride rinse, in-office fluoride applications, and more frequent exams than twice a year is also recommended for patients who use e-cigarettes.
“It takes a lot of investment of time and money to manage dental caries, depending on how bad it gets,” Irusa says. “Once you’ve started the habit, even if you get fillings, as long as you continue, you’re still at risk of secondary caries. It’s a vicious cycle that will not stop.”