Vaping threatens oral health ‘as much as smoking’ – EFP

07 September, 2023 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

Electronic cigarettes can be as harmful to gum and oral health as smoking traditional tobacco, the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) said in a statement today.

It is well known that smoking can seriously damage oral health, noted the EFP, with smokers experiencing more gum disease and tooth loss, and increased incidence of oral cancer. Gum disease itself affects systemic health, being implicated in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, inflammatory bowel disease and others.

But, it said, warnings against vaping tend only to highlight its damage to the heart and lungs, and not to oral health.

“Despite the fact that the vaping phenomenon is relatively new compared to smoking, meaning research details are still incomplete, evidence does show a clear link between e-cigarettes and poor gum and oral health,” it said.

“Unlike tobacco smokers, who are more aware of smoking as a risk factor for general health problems and for gum diseases, vaping users are often misled into thinking of e-cigarettes as somehow less harmful or even safe. Vaping may not be less detrimental to gum and oral health than smoking.”

One of the factors behind vaping’s impact is nicotine, whether smoked or vaped, which restricts blood flow to the gums. Other chemicals contained in the e-cigarette vapour – including formaldehyde, propylene glycol and benzene – may increase the damage caused to the mouth, starting with a progressive destruction of the periodontium.

Unfortunately, the number of vapers is growing globally at a fast rate. This uptake appears to be higher amongst teenagers, young adults and people who have never smoked.

“Damage to the gums and the tissues supporting the teeth, often to an irreversible state, is a likely adverse effect of vaping,” said Andreas Stavropoulos, chair of the EFP’s scientific affairs committee
and EFP immediate past president. “This damage includes permanent resorption of the gums and the bone that keep the teeth in function and in the mouth. Treatment of these problems, depending on the extent, is often cumbersome, and expensive.

“For these reasons, at the EFP we urge oral healthcare professionals to not suggest vaping as a transition strategy of tobacco cessation, but rather to prioritise smoking cessation advice for both cigarettes and e-cigarettes alike, and to provide patients with information about the likely detrimental impact of vaping on gum and oral health,” added Professor Stavropoulos.

Vaping can affect oral health in a variety of additional ways, including bad breath, mouth and throat irritation, para-tracheal edema, laryngitis, ‘black tongue’, nicotine stomatitis, ‘hairy tongue’, toothache, tooth discolouration, caries, tooth sensitivity and loss, reduced enamel hardness and increased risk for cancer.

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