The Effect of Vaping on Your Teeth, Gums & Oral Health

What is Vaping?

A vape is an electronic device that heats and turns a liquid into vapor (or aerosol), which the user inhales. 

A vaping device comes in three different forms, including:

  • E-cigarettes
  • Hookahs 
  • Pens

The liquid used in vaping (also called e-liquid, e-juice, or vape juice) usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. Using a mouthpiece, it delivers marijuana, nicotine, or other forms of drugs to the lungs through inhalation. The vapor is then expelled via the nose or mouth.

The use of e-cigarette among young people rose by 1,800% from 2011 to 2019.

Truth Initiative, 2019

Vaping is very common among teenagers and young adults. Two out of ten Americans between 18 and 29 years of age said they vape. Only 8% of people ages 30 to 64 use e-cigarettes.4

In a 2019 survey, over 5 million middle and high school students in the United States reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.1

The CDC and FDA have released their 2020 findings showing that there are 3.6 million youth in the U.S. who still use e-cigarettes.2 19.6% (3.02 million) are high school students, and 4.7% (550,000) are middle school students.3

General Health Risks of Vaping

Vape liquid typically contains less nicotine than cigarettes. This is why people think vaping is a healthier alternative to cigarettes. However, there are still many health and safety risks associated with vaping.

Using nicotine at a young age can affect certain parts of the brain associated with:

  • Attention
  • Impulse control
  • Learning
  • Mood

Additionally, vaping also increases the risk of lung injury, COPD, asthma, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease.5 

Can Dentists Tell if You Vape?

Some people mistakenly think that vaping is “healthier” and safer. However, studies show that vaping is just as bad for oral health, affecting teeth and gums, and other structures in the mouth. 

Vaping has the same negative effects as smoking. So yes, a dentist can tell if a person vapes, especially if they have been vaping long-term. 

Is Vaping Bad for Your Oral Health?

Vaping is not good for oral health.

Constant exposure to e-cigarette vapor leads to bacterial growth in the mouth. This is linked to tooth decay, gum disease (periodontal disease), and cavities. 

It can also trigger gum inflammation, dry mouth, bad breath (halitosis), and many more oral conditions.

How Does Vaping Affect Your Teeth? 

Vaping affects the teeth in many ways. It can lead to:

Bacterial Growth

The results of a 2018 study revealed that higher amounts of bacteria were found on teeth exposed to e-cigarette aerosol compared to unexposed teeth.6 Bacterial accumulation was higher in the crevices and pits of teeth. 

Having too much bacteria in the teeth has been associated with a higher risk of gum disease, cavities, toothache, and tooth decay. 

Tooth Discoloration

E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which stains the teeth. This happens because the enamel, or the hard outer surface of the teeth, is porous. When a person vapes, the nicotine in an e-cigarette gets trapped inside the pores of the enamel, causing staining and discoloration.

Teeth discoloration may come in different colors: yellow, brown, or black. It sometimes depends on the type of e-juice a person is using. 

Teeth Grinding

Nicotine found in e-cigarettes acts as a stimulant. When it stimulates jaw muscles to contract, it leads a person to grind their teeth even when asleep. This is a condition called bruxism.

How Does Vaping Affect Your Gums?

Vaping also affects the gum tissue, causing:

Inflammation

A 2016 study showed that e-cigarettes could trigger inflammatory responses in the gum tissues.7 Chronic gum inflammation has been linked to periodontal diseases such as receding gums.

DNA Damage

Vaping aerosols increase inflammation and cause DNA damage in the living cells of human gums.8 Damage to cells prevents them from growing and dividing, which can speed up cell aging. This can lead to cell death.

DNA damage plays an important role in oral health, causing problems such as:

  • Bad breath or halitosis
  • Bone loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Gum disease or periodontal disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth loss

Other Oral Health Effects of Vaping

There are other oral health effects of vaping, aside from the ones most commonly known. These include:

Dry Mouth

Nicotine and propylene glycol are both found in vaping liquid. They reduce saliva flow inside the mouth by absorbing moisture, drying tooth surfaces and tissues. 

A reduction in saliva flow causes dry mouth, which leads to the accumulation of plaque bacteria. Eventually, this buildup can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

Cavities

Propylene glycol also breaks down acids that can cause damage to the enamel. This makes the teeth more prone to cavities. Vaping liquid also contains vegetable glycerin and flavoring that make bacteria stick to damaged teeth. 

Mouth burns

Although less common, vaping can lead to mouth burns because the lithium batteries can overheat and explode.

Stomatitis

Vaping causes cell damage. When the mouth's lining and the palate become inflamed, it can cause painful mouth sores and oral lesions (stomatitis).

Oral Cancer

The DNA damage caused by e-cigarettes can lead to oral cancer. This is supported by a 2019 study that showed the possibility of an e-cigarette user developing lung, oral, and bladder cancers.9

What’s Worse for Your Teeth: Vaping or Smoking Cigarettes?

E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco. For this reason, vaping is often considered a healthier alternative to smoking. Most people don’t know that the oral health of a person who smokes either a cigarette or an e-cigarette suffers just the same. 

Vaping and smoking cause the following:

  • Cell death
  • Dry mouth
  • Excess bacteria in the mouth
  • Gum inflammation

Vaping and smoking have also been associated with:

  • Bad breath
  • Bone loss
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth loss

There isn’t much difference between smoking cigarettes and vaping. They both cause the same oral health problems. 

How to Prevent Oral Health Damage From E-Cigarettes

People who choose to vape should be conscious of the physical and oral health risks associated with vaping. To help lessen the dangers of vaping, do the following:

  • Choose vape juice without nicotine content
  • Drink a lot of water to prevent dry mouth
  • Maintain good oral and dental health by brushing teeth and flossing twice a day
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and checkups

Tips for Quitting Vaping or Smoking

The following are helpful tips for people who want to quit vaping or smoking:

  • Stay away from triggers. Avoid places, people, and situations that will tempt you to vape or smoke.
  • Distract yourself. Do things that will take your mind off of vaping or smoking.
  • Try nicotine therapy. A nicotine patch or a nicotine gum can help reduce nicotine cravings.
  • Find motivation. Look for something that motivates you to quit vaping or smoking.
  • Ask for help. Tell your family and friends about your intent to stop vaping or smoking. Voicing it out loud can help you stick to your commitment.

Resources

"Patterns of E-Cigarette Use Among U.S. Youth and Young Adults." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Youth Tobacco Use: Results from the National Youth Tobacco Survey." U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

"E-cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2020." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Newport, Frank. "Young People Adopt Vaping as Their Smoking Rate Plummets." GALLUP.

"The Impact of E-Cigarettes on the Lung." American Lung Association.

Kim, Shin Ae, Smith, Samuel et al. "Cariogenic potential of sweet flavors in electronic-cigarette liquids." PLOS ONE, 7 Sept 2018.

Sundar, Isaac K et al. “E-cigarettes and flavorings induce inflammatory and pro-senescence responses in oral epithelial cells and periodontal fibroblasts.” Oncotarget vol. 7,47 (2016): 77196-77204. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.12857

"Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes." The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Tommasi, Stella et al. "Deregulation of Biologically Significant Genes and Associated Molecular Pathways in the Oral Epithelium of Electronic Cigarette Users." International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

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