To vape or not to vape?

You might have recently seen that the UK government is currently reviewing vaping and the impact it is having on young people in England, with a view to clamping down on illegal vape sales, as well as the marketing and placement of relatively cheap single-use vapes, the popularity of which has soared with younger people in recent years. About 15% of 16 to 17-year-olds and 18% of 18-year-olds are current vapers, according to a recent YouGov survey. 

      What is vaping and what do we know about it?

      Vapes or e-cigarettes are seen as a 'healthier' alternative, or a way to stop smoking tobacco or marijuana. It's an electric device that turns a liquid (typically containing nicotine or marijuana) into a vapor, which you then inhale.

      They’ve only been around for about a decade, and as there are many vaping products out there - we still don’t know for certain what the long-term effects to our oral and general health will be. There are several self-reported and randomised studies that suggest that vaping is less harmless than smoking, can improve oral and general health of smokers - and even help people stop smoking completely. But, additional long-term clinical and user-based studies are needed to validate the observations we’re beginning to see amongst our patients.

      Even though we don’t have the evidence to back this up, we are starting to see signs that vaping, like smoking, is harmful to your teeth, gums and mouth. And, we are seeing an increasing number of teenagers who have never smoked who are now vaping – thinking it isn’t harmful to their dental and overall health.  

        How can it affect your oral health?

        Even though e-cigarettes don’t contain toxic chemicals like tobacco, vape liquids still contain nicotine and are made up of other chemicals, such as glycols – some of which are cancer-causing (carcinogenic). This can lead to the following changes in your mouth, and other parts of your body:

        • Teeth staining: nicotine and chemicals in the vape liquid can trap stains in the enamel, discolouring your teeth
        • Mouth dryness: nicotine and propylene glycol reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth and this can encourage bacteria to multiply, that can lead to bad breath and a sore mouth
        • Gum disease: nicotine can reduce flow of blood to the gums, resulting in infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth (periodontal disease) that can result in tooth loss
        • Teeth grinding (bruxism): as nicotine is a stimulant, this can increase the chance of you grinding your teeth – often when you’re asleep
        • Heart and lung problems: vaping can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, lung damage, lung cancer and other respiratory problems

        It is still unclear whether vaping causes mouth cancer or other cancers, as we don’t know what long term effects might be. But we do know vapes are not risk-free.

          How can I improve my oral heath if I’m vaping?

          To improve your oral health and general health, your best option is to stop vaping completely. But if you can’t or are not ready to, we would suggest the following to reduce the harmful effect it could be have having.

          These include:

          • Choose a vape liquid without any nicotine in
          • Drink a lot of water to prevent your mouth from drying out
          • Maintain good oral health by brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and clean in between teeth by flossing or using interdental brushes 
          • Visit your hygienist and have regular check-ups with your dentist

          By seeing a hygienist you’ll be able to have any stains professionally removed from your teeth, and they’ll be able to give you tips on how to maintain excellent oral health at home.

          If you are worried about the effects of vaping on your oral health you can always contact your dentist or local dental practice.

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