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How Does Vaping Affect Your Oral Health?

Ronald Baise
26, Sep 2019

We all know that smoking is bad for your oral health.

It stains your teeth, causes gum disease (and therefore tooth loss) and is one of the biggest contributors to oral cancer.

Vaping has been advertised as a healthier alternative to smoking, but is it actually any better for your teeth and mouth?

Let’s find out.

Can vaping cause gum disease?

One of the biggest ways that smoking damages your oral health is that it makes you more likely to develop gum disease.

Gum disease is the biggest cause of tooth loss. It is also directly associated to heart disease.

Smoking is thought to contribute to gum disease for three reasons:

  1. Nicotine causes vasoconstriction, meaning that your gum has a poorer blood supply. This makes your gums more susceptible to infection and can cause gum recession.
  2. Smoking dries out your mouth. Saliva is your body’s natural defence against plaque bacteria. As gum disease is caused by plaque bacteria getting under your gum line, lower levels of saliva makes this more likely to happen.
  3. Smoking weakens your immune system generally, meaning that infectious diseases like gum disease develop at a faster rate than in non-smokers.

Diagram showing the functions of salivaIn short, many of the negative effects of smoking on your gums are due to the effects of nicotine, and the drying effect of smoke in the mouth.

Vaping exposes your gums to both nicotine and hot, drying vapour. It therefore also puts you at a higher risk of gum disease.

Furthermore, nicotine masks the early warning signs of gum disease (swelling and bleeding when you brush). This is bad because it can make you think your gums are healthy when really they are not.

It’s not clear whether vaping is as damaging to your gums as smoking, mainly because the full effects of vaping on your immune system is not yet known.

However, anything that exposes your gums directly to heat and nicotine will make you more likely to develop gum disease and lose your teeth.

Can vaping cause cavities?

Cavities (holes in your teeth) are usually caused by plaque acid eroding your tooth’s enamel.

Plaque bacteria create this harmful acid when they come into contact with sugar.

Therefore, if you have a flavoured vape that contains sugar, you are putting yourself at greater risk of developing cavities.

Constantly filling your mouth with sugar-rich vapour gives the bacteria in your mouth the means to endlessly produce acid.

Combine this with the mouth-drying effects of hot vapour and you are leaving your teeth very vulnerable to decay.

Of course not all vape liquids contain sugar, so be mindful of choosing a sugar free one.

This will not eliminate the harm done to your mouth and teeth through vaping completely however.

Can vaping stain your teeth?

The only study into vaping and tooth staining suggests that vaping does not stain your teeth.

Look who ran this study though…British American Tobacco.

They sell vape products.

So we probably need a few more studies (and perhaps from some different sources) before we can categorically say if vaping stains your teeth or not.

Theoretically, vaping should have less of a staining effect on your teeth than staining.

Cigarettes turn your teeth yellow and brown due to the tar, ash and nicotine in them.

Nicotine vapour does not contain tar or ash, but it does contain nicotine (obviously).

Although nicotine is colourless in itself, it turns light yellow when exposed to oxygen.

Long-term vaping may well, in theory at least, stain your teeth.

However we can only say for sure one way or another when proper evidence is available.

Can vaping cause mouth cancer?

Again, saying that something “causes cancer” of any kind is a big claim.

Big claims require big evidence. Right now E-cigarettes have not been around long enough to conduct the studies required to say one way or another if they cause cancer

What we do know is that many of the carcinogens found in cigarettes exist in the tar that occurs when tobacco is burned.

Vaporised nicotine does not contain this tar, but it does contain a whole host of ingredients not found in traditional cigarettes.

It’s not unlikely that some of these ingredients may be shown to be carcinogenic in the future.

Nicotine, which is common to both traditional and E-cigarettes has not been demonstrated t cause cancer.

So, in short, there is not any evidence that vaping causes mouth cancer, but we also cannot categorically say that it does not.

Are there any other ways that vaping can damage teeth?

Nicotine is a stimulant and can promote tooth grinding.

Tooth grinding slowly wears away tooth enamel. This makes your teeth more susceptible to chips, cracks and cavities.

As vaping dries the mouth, it can also cause bad breath.

Vaping vs smoking for your oral health: an overview

Oral health condition Caused by Smoking Caused by vaping
Gum disease Yes Yes
Increased chances of cavities Yes (to a small extent) Yes (to a large extent if there is sugar in the vapour)
Tooth staining Yes Maybe- definitely less so than smoking
Oral Cancer Yes Maybe
Tooth grinding Yes Yes
Bad breath Yes Yes- but less so than smoking