Vaping and Oral Health: What You Need to Tell Your Patients

dentist encouraging a patient to quit vaping
dentist encouraging a patient to quit vaping
A dentist encouraging a patient to quit vaping.

At least they aren’t smoking, right? We all know that smoking is not good for your teeth, but what about vaping? A lot of long-term smokers have switched to e-cigs because they are supposedly not as bad for you as traditional cigarettes. And vaping has attracted an entirely new group of customers, some of whom are vaping marijuana or even flavored smoke without any actual drugs in it. So here are some things you should mention to your patients to encourage them to quit vaping.

There Are Toxic Components to e-Liquids Other Than Nicotine

Propylene glycol is a major component of the e-liquid used in e-cigarettes. It’s also used in liquid sweeteners, ice cream, and whipped dairy products. Unfortunately, when it gets in your mouth it tends to break down into acids that are toxic to your soft tissue and may degrade enamel. It can also cause dry mouth, which leads in turn to oral health issues including cavities and gum disease. It’s particularly important for people who already suffer from dry mouth from some other cause, such as as a side effect of certain medication, avoid vaping.

Another component that may not sound toxic is vegetable glycerin, which is used in a lot of pharmaceuticals and foods. However, when it mixes with flavored e-liquids it encourages bacteria to stick to enamel and the creation of biofilms. This also increases cavities. Flavored e-liquid causes 27% more damage to enamel over unflavored. This means that even if somebody is vaping nicotine-free, they’re still doing damage to their mouth.

They’re Still Using Nicotine

E-cigarettes contain a lot less nicotine than traditional cigarettes, but a heavy habit can still be enough to significantly increase their chance of developing gum disease. Nicotine can cause a reduction in blood flow to the gums, resulting in gum recession, can also trigger dry mouth, and acts as a muscle stimulant. So it’s particularly important to avoid nicotine, even the smaller amount in e-cigarettes if they have the habit of grinding their teeth. And while tar is the primary substance that stains teeth when smoking, nicotine can stain teeth too.

They’re Inhaling Bacteria Into Their Mouth

The physical act of vaping will pull more bacteria into your patient’s mouth, which can then settled onto their teeth and cause cavities. This is especially true if they enjoy a few too many sweets or have poor dental hygiene. There have even been instances where the location of cavity formation can be directly connected to where the smoke tends to come in when somebody vapes.

Flavored Vaping Liquid Contains Sugar

A lot of sugar. A candy level of sugar, in fact. This sugar might be being inhaled not eaten, but it’s still going into and through the mouth, all ready to cause cavities. Then people drink sugary drinks to deal with the dry mouth vaping causes and double down on the sugar content.

e-Cigarettes Occasionally Explode

Not to be alarmist, but the lithium batteries in e-cigarettes can occasionally explode. Between 2015 and 2017 there were just over 2,000 patients showing up in U.S. emergency rooms with burn or explosion injuries caused by an e-cigarette exploding while they were vaping and had it close to their mouth. This can result in somebody losing teeth or needing to see an oral surgeon. The number of incidents has increased dramatically.

Vaping Is Bad for Their Overall Health

looking at a patients mouth after vaping
A dentist speaking with a patient.

Recent reports of serious lung injury from vaping aside, there is growing evidence that vaping is bad for your health. The lung injuries seem to have been caused by vitamin E acetate, which is generally only used in e-cigarettes containing THC (especially in states where pot is not legal). Patients should be advised to avoid black and gray market vaping liquid containing THC.

Another study shows that daily use of electronic cigarettes can nearly double your risk of a heart attack. If you are smoking both electronic and traditional cigarettes, your risk goes up to five times. (Unfortunately, some people who try to use vaping as a smoking cessation aid end up doing both). Because the popularity of vaping is relatively recent, we really don’t know a lot.

Because of all of these factors, you should discourage your patients from vaping, especially if they have clinical dry mouth or grind their teeth.

However, for some patients, vaping is the only way they can keep from smoking. Thus, it’s worth going over the ways in which they may be able to reduce the hazard.

What Should Patients Who Vape Do to Reduce Their Risk?

Patients who do choose to use e-cigarettes should consider the following to reduce their risk of oral health problems:

  1. Be particularly careful to practice good oral hygiene. Brushing at least daily and flossing regularly can make a huge difference. They should come in for professional cleanings at least every six months.
  2. Get treatment for dry mouth if they have it, and comply with any recommendations you might give.
  3. Cut down on candy and other sweets if using flavored e-liquid. Tell patients that they need to count flavored vaping, especially of sweeter flavors, towards their “candy allowance”.
  4. If they do get a dry mouth after vaping, they should drink water or unsweetened tea. Avoid soda and energy drinks.
  5. If they grind their teeth, talk to them about a mouthguard. They can wear it at night to prevent them from doing so in their sleep.
  6. Buy a good quality vape device with protection against overcharging, replace damaged, or wet e-cig batteries. Further, don’t use their cellphone charger to charge their vape (all things potentially associated with explosions).

Learn More About How Vaping Affects Your Oral Health

Ideally, you should encourage your patients to quit vaping and/or discourage them from starting in the first place. Using the healthy mouth baseline tool can help educate them on what a healthy mouth looks like, and then you can work with them on understanding how e-cigarettes compromise oral (and overall) health. To find out more about how to educate yourself and then your patients on the risks of vaping and other oral health issues, contact Next Level Practice today.