Vaping jeopardises oral health as much as smoking does

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Vaping jeopardises oral health as much as smoking does, states EFP

The European Federation of Periodontology has recently called attention to the detrimental effects of vaping—which is often presented as a healthier alternative to smoking—on oral health. (Image: Maria Surtu/Shutterstock)

BRUSSELS, Belgium: Besides crippling health effects, smoking can cause serious damage to oral health, putting smokers at an increased risk of periodontal disease, tooth loss and even oral cancer. A trendy alternative to smoking favoured by the younger generation is vaping, which is often seen as the lesser of the two evils. However, research on its oral health effects is limited, and its claims to be a safer option than smoking conventional cigarettes have been oversold.

Nicotine, an ingredient commonly found in both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, restricts the blood flow to the gingival tissue. Other chemicals contained in the e-cigarette vapour, including formaldehyde, propylene glycol and benzene, may lead to serious dental damage and cause progressive destruction of the periodontium.

According to the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), tobacco-smokers have a heightened awareness of the risks of smoking for general and oral health. However, it stated that e-cigarette users are often misled into thinking that vaping is a less harmful option than smoking.

According to the World Health Organization, around 1.3 billion people worldwide are tobacco users, and tobacco kills over eight million people each year, including 1.3 million non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Regular warnings against vaping often only highlight the damage it causes to the heart and lungs, but do not refer to oral health, although as the EFP noted, evidence shows a clear and undisputable link between e-cigarettes and poor oral health.

“Damage on the gums and the tissues supporting the teeth, often to an irreversible state, is a likely adverse effect of vaping,” stated Prof. Andreas Stavropoulos, EFP’s immediate past president and chair of the EFP’s scientific affairs committee. “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,” he added.

The EFP encourages oral healthcare professionals to refrain from recommending vaping as a means of transitioning from tobacco use. Instead, health experts should prioritise offering smoking cessation guidance to individuals who use either cigarettes or e-cigarettes. Additionally, the EFP believes that dental professionals should provide patients with information concerning the potential adverse effects of vaping on oral health.

Other oral health-related side effects of vaping include halitosis, mouth and throat irritation, paratracheal oedema, laryngitis, black hairy tongue, nicotine stomatitis, toothache, tooth discoloration, caries, tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, reduced enamel hardness and an increased risk of cancer.

Growing health concerns in the UK

According to research conducted by not-for-profit organisation Material Focus, a staggering five million single-use vapes are being disposed of in the UK every week—four times more than in 2022. Owing to growing fears about the health and environmental risks of disposable vapes, the government is reportedly planning to ban their sale in the country.

Scott Butler, the executive director of Material Focus, stated that single-use vapes are one of the most environmentally wasteful, damaging and dangerous consumer products ever made. However, according to The Guardian, the UK Vaping Industry Association is concerned that the ban would only lead to further harm, since the vapes would eventually be sold on the black market.

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