adult man vaping blowing smokeOverall, the rate of smoking tobacco has decreased in recent years. In Pennsylvania, nearly 23% of adults smoked in 2011, compared to 16% in 2020. From an oral health standpoint, this is good. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of gum disease. Since gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults, it’s not surprising that smokers also have a higher risk of tooth loss than nonsmokers.

However, at the same time, we have seen an increase in the rate of e-cigarette use, known as vaping. There are many reasons to believe that this might be healthier overall than cigarette smoking. It’s not entirely healthy, though, and a new study reveals vaping may also increase your risk of gum disease.

Advanced Dentistry of Butler can help you take care of your teeth and enjoy a bright, healthy smile if you enjoy vaping.

Vaping Changes Bacteria in Mouth

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of gum disease because it changes the bacteria found in your mouth. This is what scientists call the oral microbiome, the environment of your mouth.

We know that the vapor from e-cigarettes contains some, but not all, of the compounds in cigarette smoke that are responsible for health consequences. We don’t know how e-cigarette vapor impacts your oral microbiome.

To test the impact of vaping on your oral microbiome, researchers examined 84 volunteers over six months. Of these volunteers, 27 people smoked tobacco cigarettes, 28 used only e-cigarettes, and 29 were nonsmokers. Gum disease is so prevalent that all volunteers had at least mild gum disease at the start of the study.

None of the participants had professional teeth cleaning during the study period to avoid disrupting the results. Not surprisingly, this led to signs that gum disease was worsening for all volunteers.

However, what was surprising was that each of the three groups had a different bacterial population. The populations were unique enough that a computer could accurately categorize people into the three groups with about 75% accuracy based solely on the bacteria in their mouths. The greatest difficulty for the computer was categorizing e-cigarette users, who shared characteristics with both smokers and nonsmokers.

Evidence Vaping Could Increase Gum Disease Risk

Some of the information from this study raises concerns about gum disease for people who vape.

E-cigarette users had elevated levels of certain bacteria species associated with gum disease.

In addition, e-cigarette users had higher levels of chemicals that indicate inflammation and immune response. Gum disease worsens not just because of the bacteria in our mouth but because of our body’s response to that bacteria. Elevated inflammation and a greater immune response can therefore signal a higher risk of severe gum disease that could lead to tooth loss.

How to Care for Your Mouth If You Vape

If you do vape, this research and similar studies suggest that it’s good to cut back or quit altogether. However, this and other studies suggest that vaping might be healthier than cigarette smoking. It’s probably healthier to keep vaping if the alternative would be cigarette smoking. At the very least, vaping doesn’t stain teeth, which means less need for teeth whitening!

If you continue vaping, take steps to make sure you aren’t causing problems for your teeth and gums. First, do what you can to avoid dry mouth related to vaping. A dry mouth reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth, and saliva protects your mouth from oral bacteria. Drink water and rinse your mouth after vaping.

Contrary to what you might find on the Internet, many flavored vape fluids contain sugars. However, the level of sugars is relatively small. For comparison, cola contains about 0.1 g of sugar per milliliter of soda. The highest sugar level in a vape fluid was 0.00062 g per milliliter. Still, this is another reason why you might want to rinse your mouth after vaping. Suspended in vapor and in a dry mouth, these sugars might cling to your teeth.

Continue to practice good oral hygiene at home, and get your regular professional cleanings every six months. This will help you head off the risk of gum disease. We can also assess your risk at these appointments and let you know if any additional care–including more regular appointments–is recommended.

Schedule a Dental Checkup in Butler

Whether you vape or not, it’s good to get your teeth checked every six months. If you are overdue for a checkup in or around Butler, PA, please call (724) 282-4436 or email us today to schedule an appointment with dentist Dr. Bob at Advanced Dentistry of Butler.