Vape pen metal electronic cigarette on black table

Vaping may be the new cool trend in smoking, but it’s terrible for your health and particularly dangerous to your teeth and gums. Vape juice contains numerous chemicals and toxic agents that are released when you inhale the vapor from an e-cigarette or vape pen. Some of these chemicals might not be dangerous to other parts of the body but can be harmful when it comes to your teeth and gums, which they have direct contact with. In fact, studies have shown that people who use vaping electronic cigarettes products are 78% more likely to experience oral health issues than people who do not vape!

What is Vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapors created by an e-cigarette or vape pen. The vapor is a mixture of chemicals that includes nicotine, similar to what you'd see in smoking cigarettes. But since there's no cigarette, the vaping pen delivers the ingredients in the vape juice without tars or similar agents you see in cigarettes. That being said, they aren't exactly "safe," as there are still toxic agents in vaping products. In fact, nicotine can create a dependence on vaping products in as little as three days. On top of that, people who use vaping products are 78% more likely to experience oral health problems than people who do not vape.[1]

Why is Vaping Bad for Your Teeth and Gums?

Vape juice is toxic and can cause the same dental problems as traditional cigarettes, such as tooth sensitivity, dry mouth, and gum disease. However, vaping also carries other dental health risks. Since there are often added sweeteners and flavors, vaping could increase your chances of developing cavities or recurring tooth decay. Additionally, the chemicals in vape juice can lead to even worse conditions, like oral cancer.[2]

People who use vaping products are statistically at a much higher risk of experiencing dental problems than people who do not vape. Even though a lot of people consider vaping to be “less bad” for them than smoking tobacco, there are still a lot of serious issues it poses for their oral health and overall wellness.

Until more recently, there hasn’t been a lot of data on vaping because it was still a much newer “thing” without a lot of research. But as vaping has gained tremendous popularity and studies have been conducted, the dental industry is warning patients that vaping is actually really, really bad for their mouths.

Simply speaking, using e-cigarettes is linked with poor oral health when you compare oral tissues to people who don’t use vaping products.

Vape Juice is Toxic to Gum Tissue (Propylene Glycol)

Propylene glycol (PG) is an ingredient that is used in many different types of products, including vaping pens. Propylene glycol is colorless and odorless, so you really can't even tell that it's there. But it does have a slight bit of a sweet taste to it. If you ingest or inhale too much of it, it can be toxic.[3]

When you vape, PG makes direct contact with all of your oral tissues. In dentistry, we know that it can work against your tooth enamel, essentially eroding it. Plus, it dries out your oral tissues because PG bonds with the saliva in your mouth, causing it to dry out and contributing to xerostomia. And xerostomia is a major risk factor for cavities. In turn, that means it can contribute to thick, sticky plaque buildup on your teeth.

PG also contains acids and specific ingredients that are toxic to teeth and gums. Even though it’s safe enough (figuratively speaking) to inhale it in vape juice, it’s known for irritating soft tissues and damaging enamel. This goes for nicotine free juices too.

How Vaping Affects Your Teeth and Gums

Just like smoking, vaping can cause physical changes in your teeth and gums. Unfortunately, most people think it's a "safe" or "safer" alternative than smoking. But vape juice contains flavorings, nicotine, and other chemicals. The flavorings in vape juice are just like what you find in other types of foods or sweets; they can alter acid levels in your mouth and contribute to cavities. Especially when vaping is already drying out your mouth during the process. Plus, vaping continues to contain nicotine. When you look at the research, people who vape are going to have statistically worse teeth and gums than people who don't use vaping pens.

1. Gum Disease

We frequently see aggressive periodontal disease in people who smoke because of the way nicotine limits blood flow to the soft oral tissues around your teeth. Vaping pens still deliver nicotine, so they run the same risks when it comes to combatting gum disease. Even if you have great oral hygiene and floss every day, you might not be able to get your gums to heal properly because of a lack of blood circulation in your soft tissues.

As a side note, it can be challenging to self-diagnose gum problems if you smoke. The normal redness, bleeding, and gum inflammation that’s common in non-smokers isn’t the case with someone who uses tobacco or nicotine agents. If you’re not visiting a dentist regularly, you could miss your gum disease altogether.

2. Dry Mouth

Xerostomia, or chronic dry mouth, is often made worse by smoking, mouth breathing (which includes vaping,) and nicotine. Plus, the propylene glycol in vape juice is also reducing your saliva flow.

Why does dry mouth matter? Bad breath and plaque buildup are a start. But chronic mouth dryness also puts you at dangerously high risk for aggressive tooth decay throughout your mouth.

3. Bruxism

Bruxism, or grinding your teeth, can be an unfortunate side effect of using stimulants or vaping. When people use stimulants or vape, they may find that they grind their teeth together involuntarily. This grinding motion can cause worn-out enamel, broken dental work, and sensitive teeth.

You might be bruxing your teeth when you aren’t thinking about it when you’re craving nicotine, or even while you’re sleeping. Make sure you wear a nightguard if it’s the latter. For daytime teeth clenching, make an effort to rest with your lips touching but your teeth apart.

4. Tooth Sensitivity

Sensitive teeth can be due to a variety of factors, with gum recession, periodontal disease, and xerostomia being just a few of them. Since all three of these risk factors are also related to vaping and smoking, using a vape pen could also predispose you to tooth sensitivity.

Teeth tend to feel sensitive because they have exposed roots or starting to suffer from enamel erosion. But things like sweet sensitivity are more frequently linked with receding gum tissues and undiagnosed tooth decay.

5. Enamel Erosion & Tooth Decay

Vape pen ingredients and their additives can erode tooth enamel, similar to drinking or eating sweet foods and beverages. When you pair that with the drying agents already inside your mouth, it's the perfect environment for tooth enamel erosion.

A study in 2018 found that people exposed to flavored vape aerosols led to two-fold increase in biofilm formation and up to a 27% decrease in enamel hardness compared to unflavored controls vape juice.[4]

Erosion happens when there’s an acidic enough environment that your tooth enamel literally wears out. We see this when someone has acid reflux disease, there’s a highly acidic pH level in their mouth, or they eat a lot of sweets and processed carbs (because those things contribute to acid erosion.) Vape pen flavorings and sweeteners are no different.

6. Reduced Immunity

Nicotine affects cytokine production, neutrophil function, and other immune cell functions. The result? Reduced immunity and increased infection rates. In other words, your body isn't able to help repair itself as quickly or manage conditions like gum disease. That's why we frequently see more aggressive periodontal infections in people who smoke or vape compared to non-smokers with healthy immune systems.

The nicotine from smoking and vaping products literally cuts down the blood flow to your teeth and gums, restricting your body’s ability to send antibodies to those areas to fight off infections. That’s why even if you’re brushing and flossing, you might still get chronic, hard-to-treat periodontal disease.

7. Tooth Loss

A natural side effect of vaping-induced dry mouth and cavities is…get ready…tooth loss. Obviously, tooth loss is a bit on the extreme side of things, but if you’re not someone who sees a dentist regularly, you may run the risk of having non-reversible tooth damage by the time you go in for a checkup.

We frequently see tooth loss associated with nicotine use because of decreased immune capabilities. When gum infections don’t heal, the tissues literally detach themselves from the roots of your teeth. Over time, teeth get loose and will eventually fall out on their own.

8. Cancer

Can you get cancer from vaping? Even though we see increased oral cancer in people who smoke and use dip tobacco, is a vape pen just as dangerous?

This is one of those questions that needed time for research studies to be conducted (you can’t whip out a clinical study overnight!) But the data out there does suggest there’s a possible link between e-cigarettes and head and neck cancers. In some instances, oral cancer found in individuals who vape is extremely progressive and fatal.

Talk With Your Dentist

It’s important to see your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings, especially if you use any tobacco product, vaping pen, or e-cigarettes. Because common issues like xerostomia will raise your risk of cavities and gum disease, a preventative care plan should be a top priority.

The American Dental Association has found that people who smoke e-cigarettes are more likely to have untreated cavities. The ADA also added the long-term effects of vaping devices and volatile organic compounds are still unclear.[5]

Oral health vaping has become an overwhelming public health concern across the united states. The FDA found in 2022, about 1 in 10 or more than 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students currently used e-cigarettes in the past 30-day. Talk to your child about the dangers of vaping and smoking.[6]

Vaping and Teeth Recap

We’re still learning how vaping and e-cigarettes affect people’s oral health. But we do know that using them will significantly increase your risk of dental issues like cavities and gum disease. There’s no denying it. So if you’re considering switching to vape pens or giving them a try, a better idea is to talk to your dental team or doctor about a tobacco cessation plan.

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