Vaping is an electronic version of smoking that’s rising in popularity. The belief that vaping is a better and safer alternative to smoking is far from the truth. Cancer-causing chemicals that are found in traditional cigarettes are also found in e-vaping liquids. Flavours are being added to attract the younger generation leading to a risk of oral and general health concerns including damage to the developing brain from nicotine. It is important for people who smoke to regularly visit their dentist to ensure they keep their teeth and gums healthy and to check for any signs of mouth (oral) cancer. The earlier an oral cancer is found, the higher the chance that treatment will be successful.
How Does Smoking/Vaping Affect Oral Health?
- Oral cancer
- Dry Mouth
- Tooth decay
- Failure to heal after tooth extractions (also known as dry socket)
- Tooth discolouration
- Bad breath and loss of taste
- Red, swollen and tender gums
Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is caused by an infection that destroys the bone surrounding and supporting your teeth. Research has revealed the many negative effects of nicotine on oral health. Nicotine tends to reduce blood flow to the gums, which weakens the tissue and increases the chances of bone and tooth loss. Studies have also revealed that chemicals found in vapes can change the balance of bacteria in the mouth causing more loss of gum attachment to the tooth than with cigarette smoking! This means a pocket forms between the gum and tooth which becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to more severe bone and tooth loss.
It is very important to try and prevent tooth loss. Losing teeth towards the back of your mouth can cause the remaining teeth to shift and move, collapse of the face from loss of tooth support and create problems with chewing food leading to a decreased quality of life and poor nutrition. Losing teeth at the front of the mouth affects your ability to eat, can create problems with speech and also significantly affects your appearance and therefore self-esteem and confidence.
Untreated and uncontrolled gum disease has also been linked to more serious health conditions including stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia.
Vaping and Oral Cancer
Smoking is one of the main risk factors for developing oral cancer. The good news is that those who have quit smoking have the same risk of developing mouth cancer as non-smokers, so it’s never too late to quit! Some of the signs to look out for with oral cancer can be lumps/swelling in the mouth or throat, white or red patches on the tissues of the mouth including the cheeks, tongue or gums , difficulty chewing or swallowing, voice changes and/or oral ulcers (often painless) that haven’t healed within 2 weeks.
Preventing Oral Problems in Smokers
- Try to quit smoking – speak to a health professional, your dentist or consider contacting the NSW Quitline on 13QUIT (13 7848) or visit iCanQuit.com.au for guidance
- Clean your teeth regularly twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to prevent decay
- Floss regularly to prevent gum disease and to reduce tender and swollen gums
- Visit your dentist every 6 months for a thorough check up and clean. Your dentist will be able to give you proper oral health advice and help detect issues as early as possible
- For instances of dry mouth, keeping hydrated, oral rinses and chewing sugar free gum can help to stimulate the flow of saliva to relieve discomfort and protect against tooth decay and gum disease