There’s a not-so-new-anymore trend sweeping across Canada, and it’s not as benign as it might seem. You’ve seen it at social gatherings, parks, and perhaps even within your family circles—people puffing out clouds of fruity-smelling smoke from a sleek, cylindrical device. Yes, we’re talking about vaping and the use of e-cigarettes. It’s touted as the ‘safer’ alternative to traditional cigarettes and is especially popular among young adults.

But how safe is it really, especially when it comes to your oral health?

That’s the question we will explore in this article. We will sift through prevailing myths, look at the realities of vaping, and pull the curtain back on its impact on your oral health, all within the specific context of Canadian trends and statistics.

Understanding Vaping and E-cigarettes

Vaping involves using an electronic device (commonly known as an e-cigarette or vape pen) that heats a liquid—called vape juice or e-liquid—turning it into an aerosol that the user then inhales. Unlike traditional cigarettes that burn tobacco, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine in vapor form. This modern way of ‘smoking’ comes in many flavours and is packaged in high-tech gadgets, making it appear fun, harmless, and even trendy.

The popularity of vaping has soared in recent years.

Data from the Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey (CTNS) reveal that more Canadians are reaching for e-cigarettes. In 2019, nearly 15% of Canadians reported trying an e-cigarette, and about 5% reported using one in the past 30 days. The uptake is even more significant among young adults, with almost 20% of those aged 20-24 reporting past 30-day use.

But despite its growing popularity, vaping is not as harmless as these statistics might suggest. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, with many potential dangers hidden beneath its appealing surface. Even though it’s seen as a cutting-edge lifestyle choice that distances users from the health risks associated with conventional smoking, the truth is an entirely different story.

So, if you’ve embraced vaping as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, or if you’ve simply been trying it out because it’s ‘in’, it’s time to take a closer look at what you’re really signing up for.

The Myths and Realities of Vaping

When it comes to vaping, there’s a pretty persuasive narrative: it’s the healthier alternative to smoking. And sure, when you consider the fact that e-cigarettes don’t produce tar – the substance responsible for most of the health issues associated with traditional cigarettes – it’s easy to see why some might argue for vaping’s relative safety.

But the absence of tar doesn’t mean vaping is risk-free.

You see, e-liquids contain a cocktail of chemicals, and while they might be fewer than in traditional cigarettes, some of these substances are potentially harmful. For instance, did you know that many e-liquids contain a chemical called propylene glycol? While approved for use in food and cosmetics, the effects of inhaling it over a long period are largely unknown. Nicotine – a highly addictive substance – is also present in many e-liquids, posing its own set of health risks.

Furthermore, a review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reported that there is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases the risk of dependence on nicotine. There’s also moderate evidence that vaping can increase the risk of using traditional tobacco cigarettes.

In other words, e-cigarettes, instead of steering you away from harmful smoking habits, might actually be leading you towards them.

Exploring the Connection Between Vaping and Oral Health

Now that we’ve dispelled some common myths about vaping, let’s focus on its impact on your oral health.

The heated aerosol that you inhale when vaping doesn’t just disappear. It has contact with your oral tissues, and that can lead to several issues.

When you vape, the aerosol coats your mouth with potentially harmful substances. One of them is nicotine, which can reduce blood flow, restricting the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the soft tissues of your mouth. Over time, this can lead to gum diseases as your body struggles to heal inflamed gums. The nicotine in e-cigarettes can also cause dry mouth, which isn’t just uncomfortable – it can contribute to tooth decay since saliva isn’t washing away bacteria and food particles as effectively.

E-liquids also contain other chemicals that can negatively impact your oral health. Some of these, like formaldehyde and acrolein, are known to be toxic and can cause oral tissue irritation and damage. Some flavourings used in e-liquids can also be harmful. For example, a study found that cinnamon and menthol flavours could potentially harm cells in your mouth.

It’s clear to see that while vaping might not produce tar or involve inhaling burnt tobacco, it’s far from harmless. And when it comes to your oral health, the effects can be both significant and concerning.

Specific Dental Problems Associated with Vaping

Vaping has been associated with a variety of dental issues, underscoring the significant impact it can have on oral health. Now, let’s delve into some of these specific problems, backed by research and studies.

Remember that dry mouth sensation we mentioned? It can have serious consequences.

Chronic dry mouth can lead to mouth sores and ulcers, not to mention an unpleasant feeling of thirst or even difficulties speaking and swallowing. But it gets worse: a consistently dry mouth can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your mouth, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. In fact, a study published in the journal Oncotarget found that e-cigarette aerosols and flavourings can harm gum tissue cells, potentially leading to periodontal diseases.

There’s also the issue of nicotine’s vasoconstrictor effect. This means nicotine can make your blood vessels contract, reducing blood flow to the gums. Less blood flow means fewer nutrients reach your gums, and this can lead to gum recession. In the long run, you could be looking at various forms of periodontal disease, from gingivitis to more severe conditions like periodontitis.

Lastly, there’s evidence suggesting a link between vaping and oral cancer. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicated that e-cigarette vapour could potentially cause DNA damage in the oral cells, which can lead to cancer over time.

The Aesthetic Impact of Vaping and the Role of Cosmetic Dentistry

Aside from the health effects, vaping can also impact your smile— and not in a good way. Many people don’t realize that the changes vaping can cause are not just below the surface of your gums.

Nicotine, for example, can cause teeth staining. With regular vaping, your once bright white smile might adopt a darker, more yellowish hue. This staining happens due to nicotine’s ability to react with oxygen, forming a yellow substance that can stick to your teeth. Not quite the effect you were hoping for, right? Yes, you can stil get your bright smile back – with our cosmetic dentistry services.

There’s also evidence that vaping might lead to premature facial aging due to the repetitive motion of puffing on an e-cigarette. This can cause wrinkles to form around the mouth, much like the ‘smoker’s lines’ seen in traditional cigarette smokers.

How Dental Professionals Can Help

Regular dental check-ups are vital for everyone, but they’re especially crucial if you’re a vaper. Regular visits to your dentist can help spot early signs of potential vaping-related oral health issues, possibly even before you notice anything is wrong.

Dental examinations can uncover issues often associated with vaping, like dry mouth, tooth decay, or gum disease. Early detection significantly improves the likelihood of successful treatment. So, don’t skip out on your dental appointments; they’re an important line of defence against the damages vaping can cause.

But dentists do more than just diagnose and treat issues.

Dental professionals also play an essential role in raising awareness about the dangers of vaping. We can provide you with information on the potential risks and offer advice on how to protect your oral health. It’s a conversation worth having, especially if you’re a vaper or considering vaping.

Your Next Steps for Better Oral Health

We’ve covered a lot of ground, discussing the impact of vaping on oral health. By now, you might be reevaluating your relationship with e-cigarettes, and that’s a good thing. Acknowledging the potential risks is the first step towards making better decisions for your oral health.

If you’re vaping, it’s essential to take this information seriously.

Consider these points, and don’t brush them aside. Talk to your dentist if you’re noticing any changes in your mouth or if you have any concerns related to vaping. They can provide you with personalized advice and propose a plan to help mitigate potential damage and protect your oral health moving forward.

With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to focus on improving personal health habits. Adding dental check-ups to your summer plans is a solid step towards ensuring your oral health is not compromised by vaping. Remember, quitting vaping is the best course of action for both your oral and overall health. It’s not always easy, but the benefits are well worth the effort. You’ve got this!