Written by: Mitra Bolouri, DDS (Dallas County Dental Society Member)
At the beginning of the year, many people choose to make resolutions to help them live a healthier lifestyle. One of the most common resolutions is to quit smoking. Many smokers believe that using e-cigarettes, commonly referred to vaping, will help them quit, but nothing could be further from the truth. E-cigarette use can be just as detrimental to one’s health, and may actually be more of a hindrance than a help.
In many cases, vaping actually increases tobacco use rather than decreases it. According to the American Dental Association, one study showed that smokers who vaped actually were at an increased risk of not stopping after a year compared to those who had never used an e-cigarette. E-cigarettes are also increasing tobacco use among youths. Tobacco use had been decreasing among middle and high school students, but in recent years the use of e-cigarettes has risen among middle and high school students. In this demographic, e-cigarettes have become more common than traditional cigarettes as they are usually easier for teenagers to obtain.
E-cigarette cartridges come in a variety of flavors, many of which are what make them attract younger users. In addition to enticing new users to try tobacco products, the sweeteners in the flavoring can have detrimental effects on the teeth and oral cavity. The flavoring can cause a decrease in enamel hardness, and the viscosity of the e-liquid itself can cause cavity-causing bacteria to adhere more readily to the teeth. This combination, unsurprisingly, can result in an increase in cavities in e-cigarette users. Propylene glycol, the carrier in e-liquid, breaks down to components which are toxic to both the teeth and oral soft tissue and can increase risk of dry mouth, which further adds to the risk of cavities.
And of course, one cannot forget that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, just like conventional tobacco products. While the amount of nicotine present is often less, usage may increase due to a perceived sense that the product is less detrimental to one’s health, increasing the overall nicotine consumption. This can decrease blood flow to the oral tissues as well as decreasing the function of the immune system, with the end result of increased gum disease and tooth loss.
When making your resolutions or just choosing to pursue a healthier lifestyle, make sure you are not just replacing one bad habit with another one. For healthier ways to stop smoking or tobacco use, reach out to your dentist or health care professional for alternatives rather than making the mistake of thinking e-cigarette use will help you quit.