A recent study should serve as a clear warning to anyone who cares about their dental health: using tobacco, in any form, including the increasingly popular practise of vaping, is a recipe for dental disaster.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in the United States issued the warning after researchers examined several years’ worth of tracking data that examined links between smoking and poor dental health among thousands of American men and women.
The bottom line is that individuals who regularly use tobacco products like cigarettes, electronic cigarettes (vapes), cigars, pipes, hookahs, and smokeless tobacco are significantly more likely to experience various dental issues.
This includes a significantly increased risk for six different dental issues, depending on the type of tobacco used:
- Gum disease
- Oral precancerous lesions
- Bone loss around the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Tooth loss due to tooth decay or gum disease
Additionally, vaping, which is occasionally considered a risk-free method of tobacco use, was associated with a 27% increased risk of bleeding after flossing or brushing.
We’ve known for a long time that smoking increases your risk for gum disease, according to Dr. Purnima Kumar, spokesperson from American Dental Association.
Despite not being a study team member, Kumar emphasised that the new analysis reiterates that general concern. Kumar is also chair of the department of periodontics and oral medicine at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor.
Marushka Silveira, an epidemiologist who worked for the NIDCR, a division of the American National Institutes of Health, led the study. Silveira and her coworkers examined three to five years’ of annual tracking data gathered from 2013 to 2019 between 2021 and 2022. Ten thousand to sixteen thousand men and women were monitored for the six dental conditions under consideration.
About 16% to 19% of them regularly smoked cigarettes, while 2% to 3% used smokeless tobacco or cigars. In the end, smoking increased the risk of gum disease by 33%, losing teeth by 35%, and tooth loss by 43%, while cigar use increased the risk of oral precancerous lesions by more than twice. However, the researchers also paid attention to the 2% to 3% of participants who vaped frequently.
That’s crucial, according to Kumar, as vaping poses a “much newer phenomenon” threat to dental health. She stated that vaping had only recently become popular in the United States. “So, the exposure time frame we’re looking at here is just between 10 and 12 years.”
Even so, she was not surprised to learn that vapers had a noticeably higher risk of experiencing gum bleeding after flossing or brushing.
This is so because, according to Kumar, “This study validates everything we have observed at the molecular/cellular level, which is that vaping may be worse for your dental health than smoking.”
She stated that the worry is based on what her own earlier research has already shown regarding the effect of vaping on the bacteria that live in everyone’s mouth, an environment known as “the biofilm.”
What we discovered, said Kumar, is that oral bacteria regard exposure to e-cigarettes as a food source, which means that the nicotine, heat, and other organic compounds in vape products are instantly broken down by these bacteria when they enter the mouth. As a result, as time passes, it appears that your biofilm acquires a slime layer, making it “gunkier” and leading to an inflammation, Kumar commented.
When the dental health of vapers who had been using vaporizers for only five months was compared to smokers who had been using tobacco for at least five years, “We found that the amount of inflammation among vapers was as much as among smokers, although vapers had significantly less exposure to tobacco in terms of time. And as a result, vapers seem to reach the point of bacterial destruction much more quickly.”
The researchers cautioned that it’s not entirely clear if or how that translates into serious dental damage in vapers. For instance, they mentioned that the majority of vapers are former smokers. And they made the point that this implies that the increased risk of gum bleeding among vapers may have something to do with giving up smoking.
However, despite only connecting gum bleeding to vaping, the team warned that it’s possible this bleeding is an early sign of undiagnosed dental issues. The study team stated that additional research would be required to monitor longer-term risks.
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