Electronic cigarettes have been seeing a rise in popularity, within specialty shops popping up and more and more folks strolling the sidewalks with a shiny cartridge in hand. Since they produce vapor instead of smoke, and generally have a less harsh effect on the lungs (at least, as far as users can tell) e-cigs have a “healthier” feel than traditional tobacco products. Problem is, this has yet to be backed by conclusive research.
What do we really know about e-cigarettes? The answer is: not much. The ingredients involved are so new, and so quickly changing, that researchers haven’t had a chance to investigate the biological effects of these products. And emerging studies aren’t optimistic.
Read on to learn more about what e-cigarettes might expose you to, and arm yourself with knowledge that will help you, a friend, or a family member kick the habit. Get in touch if you ever have questions for Dr. Okamura about your tobacco use and oral health, and find quitting resources online.
Electronic Cigarettes vs. Tobacco
Many e-cigarette users find that since they feel better using their electronic product than they do when smoking, that’s the evidence they need to feel comfortable with their alternative smoking. In fact, about 53% percent of young American adults believe that e-cigarettes are healthier than standard cigarettes. But new research has health professionals worrying.
The biggest problem with e-cigarettes is that their manufacturing is completely unregulated. Different brands and products show serious spikes in levels of nicotine, carcinogens, and other worrying ingredients (including some shared with products like antifreeze). The American Lung Association cautions that consumers have no knowledge of either the contents of their electronic cigarettes, or the long-term results of smoking them (as well as inhaling secondhand vapor).
Like standard cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain nicotine. While e-cigarettes are intended as an aid in quitting smoking, by providing users with their nicotine without the tobacco, they may actually move some individuals closer to picking up the habit. The appealing flavors and flashy casings involved might also tempt teens and young nonsmokers to try vaping for themselves.
When it comes to any kind of smoking, caution is the best plan – and since we can’t know exactly what we might experience down the road as a result of e-cigarette use today, there’s just no way to feel confident about the habit.
E-Cigarettes and Your Oral Health
Smoking increases your changes of developing gum disease at some point in your lifetime. This is because it weakens your body’s immune system, making it more difficult for you to fight off injections. Plus, once your gums have been damaged by periodontal disease, your smoking makes the healing process slower and less successful.
While the effects of e-cigarettes may not be quite the same, they cause a different kind of oral damage. The nicotine within the vapor is a vasoconstrictor compound. This means that it stimulates contraction of blood vessels, restricting blood flow. The end result is something similar to what is caused by traditional tobacco use: the decreased nutrient and oxygen supplies weaken the mouth’s healing mechanisms. This ends up increasing your risk of periodontal disease. The mouth is also less able to clean itself and fight bacteria, which limits healing and cell growth going forward.
Smoking, whether with or without tobacco, is always going to have a negative impact on your oral health. While e-cigarettes may seem like an improvement, the best course of action is always to go smoke (and vapor) -free. Quitting smoking, vaping, or other tobacco use is hard – and we’re here to help. Just get in touch with any questions.