It's common knowledge these days that smoking can have disastrous effects on your oral health, and the colour of your teeth. If you smoke, it's not just the notorious teeth yellowing and staining you need to worry about. Smoking can damage your mouth in many ways. But is vaping any better?
In this article, we're going to be talking about the effects that smoking and vaping have on your oral health and whether vaping is bad for your teeth.
What we know about vaping and oral health
More people than ever are making the switch from smoking to vaping in order to help them quit smoking. We must all know about the negative effects of smoking on teeth and gums by now. Many of them are very visible. However many people might still be unsure whether vaping is really any better.
There are only a few published studies on the effects of vaping on teeth. But the evidence we do have certainly suggests that vaping is far less harmful. It will certainly not have the same long-term negative effects as smoking. So let's take a look at what we do know.
The trouble with tar
Tar is a chemical substance that is created when tobacco is burned. The tar in tobacco smoke is also the main culprit for the teeth staining many smokers suffer from. Tar can very quickly stain your teeth a yellow colour. Over time with regular smoking, your teeth can even darken to an unpleasant brown colour. Worse than that, tar is a cocktail of thousands of chemicals, many of which are extremely toxic. Vaping does not contain tobacco, or involve burning anything. It therefore does not produce any tar.
In a 2021 study, some tobacco scientists compared the staining effects of vapour with some other products. The scientists specially prepared sections of cow's teeth to simulate human enamel and saliva. The study concluded that the teeth that were exposed to just e-cigarette vapour showed little to no colour change after 86 days exposure. On the other hand, the samples that they exposed to cigarette smoke, red wine and coffee were very different. They showed visible signs of staining after just 5 days of exposure.
Can nicotine stain your teeth?
The jury’s out on this one. It is certainly true that as nicotine oxidizes it can develop a yellow colour. However from the study above, we know that nicotine-containing vapour doesn’t seem to stain teeth even as badly as red wine or coffee. Many vapers that give up smoking completely notice a big change in the colour of their teeth once they quit. Getting a specialist dental hygienist to clean your teeth regularly is a great idea once you have quit. It’s quite an investment, but over a few sessions the change can be quite amazing.
Vaping versus smoking and gum disease
Smokers are significantly more at risk of gum disease than non-smokers. Smoking is known to harm gum health and can cause a range of problems. These include swollen, sore and bleeding gums and even tooth loss. All of these are caused by the toxic chemicals deposited in the tar in tobacco smoke. Some scientists believe the reduction in smokers’ blood oxygen level can make this worse. But what about vaping? In short, yes, vaping may still have the potential to cause some issues with your gums. However this is more comparable with nicotine gum or lozenges than smoking.
More trouble with tar
The reason for this is that while many of the most serious effects smoking has on your teeth are caused by tar, there are still some issues that can be caused by vaping. One of the most common side effects of vaping is a dry mouth. Dry mouth is most often associated with the base ingredients of e-liquid: PG and VG (propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin). PG and VG are both hygroscopic. This means that they absorb water from the environment around them, and this includes inside your mouth. Removing moisture and the resulting dry mouth may put you at higher risk of gum disease. The easiest way to combat this? Drink more water, especially during and after vaping.
More importantly, nicotine is a “vasoconstrictor”. That means it temporarily narrows blood vessels, and there a lot of those in your mouth. This means that nicotine use might cause slower healing. More research is needed to fully understand the long term effects of vaping on oral health.
The good news is that while vaping is not necessarily great for your gums, it seems so far that it’s nowhere near as harmful as smoking. One study in 2018 compared people who smoke, people who vape and people who do neither. The study found that the people who smoke had higher levels of gum inflammation. The people that just vaped had similar gum health to the people that neither vaped nor smoked.
Do sweet tasting e-liquids cause tooth decay?
If you like to vape sweet-tasting flavours, such as disposables or our VLTZ range, you might be wondering if they can cause tooth decay. Some e-liquids do contain sugar and coating your mouth all day long with vapour containing sugar certainly won't do your teeth any favours. The good news is that none of our e-liquids contain sugar.
Instead, the sweet flavour comes from artificial sweeteners – similar to those commonly used in food and drinks. The sweeteners we use are ‘non-cariogenic’. This means we know that they do not contribute towards tooth decay.
Smoking and oral cancer
Perhaps one of the biggest risks with smoking and the health of your mouth is not cosmetic however. The risk of oral cancer is about 5 to 10 times greater among smokers compared to people who have never smoked. carbon monoxide and tar, neither of which are present in vapour, cause the vast majority of smoking-related cancers. The dangerous chemicals contained in tobacco smoke cause oral cancer. These chemicals have been found to cause genetic changes in cells within the mouth which can lead to the development or oral cancer. Although vaping is not risk-free, almost all of the carcinogenic chemicals are simply not present in e-cigarette vapour. There are very few that are there, but at much, much lower levels than when smoking.
So is vaping bad for your teeth? The short answer is no, at least not compared to smoking. In a 2016 Italian clinical study, scientists compared the oral health of 350 real life smokers. 110 of the smokers switched to vaping. They found that those that switched showed greatly improved oral health after just 4 months. This supports that switching completely from smoking to vaping will not only reduce tooth staining, but also improve your oral health in general.
As ever, vaping is not risk-free, and we need more research on the long term effects of vaping on oral health. We will never recommend vaping to anyone that would not be smoking instead.