E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, are becoming a popular alternative to traditional cigarettes. Fewer chemicals are in e-cigarettes, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a negative impact on your health, including your oral health. This is because e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, which will damage your gums and teeth.
Here is some important information about the impact of electronic cigarettes on your oral health.
Increased Risk of Oral Cancer
Traditional cigarettes contain tobacco leaves, which are treated with a variety of chemicals. Many of these chemicals, such as arsenic, benzene, and ethylene oxide are linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including oral cancer.
Because of these health risks, many smokers switch to electronic cigarettes, believing that they are safer since they don’t contain tobacco or carcinogenic additives used to treat tobacco.
Electronic cigarettes use a liquefied nicotine that is combined with flavoring and other additives. These additives include dangerous chemicals, such as propylene oxide, acrylamide, and crotonaldehyde. Another common and highly dangerous additive found in electronic cigarettes is formaldehyde, which is linked to oral cancer.
Visit your dentist if you smoke e-cigarettes and have any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent sore throat
- Oral swelling
- Oral sores that won’t heal properly
- Painful gums and tongue
- Ear pain
- Issues with swallowing, talking, or chewing
Early detection is the one of the best ways for you and other healthcare professionals to develop an effective treatment plan.
Increased Risk of Gum Disease
The combination of nicotine and artificial flavoring found in e-cigarettes limits blood flow throughout your body, including your gums. This means your gums don’t receive the oxygen they need to remain healthy, which leads to gum disease. Periodontitis, or gum disease, is a gum infection that can cause swollen and irritated gums, tooth pain, sensitive teeth, and bleeding.
The continued use of e-cigarettes will make gum disease, or gingivitis, worse. This can lead to severe tooth decay or tooth loss. An abscess, which is a pocket of infected fluid that forms on the gums, can occur, as well.
Smoker’s breath is a common side effect of smoking traditional cigarettes. The sweet flavor and smell of e-liquid combined with the lack of smoke lead some to believe that bad breath and e-cigarettes aren’t related. Unfortunately, the tooth decay that is associated with gum disease can also cause bad breath.
Increased Risk of Dry Mouth
Nicotine also inhibits the production of saliva, which leads to dry mouth. Saliva plays a critical role in your oral health. For example, saliva makes chewing much easier, protects the mouth from bacterial and viral infections, and eliminates bacteria from teeth. Dry mouth is uncomfortable and if not treated, will eventually lead to tooth decay.
Quitting electronic cigarettes is the first step to eliminate dry mouth. You can also increase saliva production in other ways. Chew sugar-free gum, avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol, and turn on a humidifier in the bedroom to help protect your mouth by increasing saliva.
Increased Risk of Bruxism
Nicotine is a stimulant, and in addition to making you jittery, it can have an unexpected impact on your oral health. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is exacerbated by nicotine use. Tooth damage, tension headaches, and jaw pain are all consequences of tooth grinding. Sleep bruxism is also made worse by e-cigarettes.
Aside from quitting, wearing a mouth guard at night can help protect your teeth from damage. Your dentist can fit you with a custom mouth guard and provide you additional tips to control your tooth grinding. For example, some medications, such as antidepressants, and stress can place patients at risk for bruxism.
Increased Risk of Mouth Inflammation and Sores
Nicotine stomatitis is a condition that occurs when you smoke traditional cigarettes, pipes, or electronic cigarettes.
The inflammation associated with nicotine stomatitis typically only impacts the roof of the mouth and occurs when the e-liquid is heated and contacts the upper palate. The resulting irritation worsens over time because of the continued exposure to nicotine and the other chemicals found in e-liquid. While nicotine stomatitis may be unpleasant, researchers have not linked this condition to cancer.
Still, if you are concerned about developing this condition, look for these early signs of nicotine stomatitis:
- Damage to the mouth’s mucous membrane
- White patches on the upper palate
- Sores and spots on the upper palate and tongue
Quitting electronic cigarettes is the first step to finding relief from the pain and irritation of stomatitis. Over-the-counter pain relievers, rinsing your mouth with cool water, and avoiding spicy foods can also help you find relief.
As you can see, the habitual use of electronic cigarettes has several potentially negative effects on your oral health, including increasing your risk of developing oral cancer. If you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact the professionals at Valley Oak Dental Group.