Written by: Alexa Emshey, RDH
Have you ever wondered if vaping counts as smoking when updating your health history at your Dental Clinic? This surprising, controversial question has come up for our Team at Lethbridge Dental Services South in recent years. Traditionally “smoking” was meant to address use of tobacco products such as cigarettes or cigars. Today this topic has expanded to reach other forms of nicotine consumption, most notably the use of electronic cigarettes, also known as “vaping”. So, what is “vaping” and how does it affect your oral health?
Electronic cigarettes are battery powered combustion devices used to heat liquid nicotine to a very high temperature causing it to become an inhalable cloud. Vaping has been marketed by its manufacturers as a cleaner, safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes¹. While in some cases this may be true, such as removing some of the other harmful chemicals in cigarettes, vaping still presents the same harmful risks of nicotine use, as well as some other unique dangers that are just starting to emerge as long term evidence is becoming available.
Fig. 1 Diagram of an e-cigarette composition and basic function²
Vaping does not escape the existing dangers of nicotine use. Nicotine is highly carcinogenic, meaning it is linked to a substantial increase in cancer risk. Vaping, like traditional smoking, utilizes nicotine as its active ingredient. Nicotine can affect mood, appetite, brain function, heart rate, blood pressure, and circulation³. These consequences are heightened in developing bodies and brains, making teens and young adults who are most likely to vape even more susceptible than their older counterparts. Because of the lack of consistent regulation for these products, some vaping products may contain as much nicotine in a single cartridge as a pack of 20 cigarettes!⁴
Sure, these things are all the stuff you may already know about smoking and vaping alike, but what does that have to do with your mouth directly? The high heat required to create the cloud that is inhaled when vaping can wreak serious havoc on the tissues in the mouth! Nicotine causes blood vessels to shrink which can cause dry mouth and slowed healing. The heat from the e-cigarette can cause heat damage to the tongue, gums, and roof of the mouth.
The combination of the chemicals and dry mouth greatly increases the likelihood of cavities forming as saliva works as an agent to protect the tooth surfaces from bacteria¹. As you vape, these consequences pile together and create a landslide of oral health issues that you may have never even thought of! Before you know it, your mouth is a playground for harmful opportunistic bacteria and other dangerous cell growth.
While vaping is presented as a great alternative to their tobacco based counterparts, the reality is it has substantial proven as well as unknown risks to your body and mouth. As your partners in achieving your best oral health, we want to do everything we can to help you! Whether you are looking to quit vaping or simply take steps to reduce your risks and the nasty side effects, your dental professional can help you achieve your goals one step at a time! Through goal setting and accountability, strategy brainstorming, providing resources, and even medical referrals, your dental professional is the perfect partner for helping you start your nicotine free future!
1- Clearing the Air on Vaping and Oral Health [Internet]. CDHA. 2023 [cited 24 January 2023]. Available from: https://files.cdha.ca/profession/resources/Vaping-resource_EN.pdf
2- E-cigarette schematic [Internet]. Wikimedia Commons. 2016 [cited 24 January 2023]. Available from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:E-cig-schematic.png (source is in the public domain)
3- How smoking and nicotine damage your body [Internet]. 2015 [cited 24 January 2023]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking-tobacco/how-smoking-and-nicotine-damage-your-body#:~:text=Nicotine%20is%20a%20dangerous%20and,lead%20to%20a%20heart%20attack.
4- Vaping: Reality Check [Internet].CDHA. 2021 [cited 3 February 2023]. Available from:
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