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Electronic Cigarettes: What Are They and How Can They Affect Your Oral Health?

They’re marketed as devices that replicate smoking behaviour, without the harmful chemicals and tobacco. They’re seen as a safer alternative to smoking, or as a tool to help quit smoking. But are they really safer?

Are they Safer than Traditional Cigarettes?

While the harms of conventional smoking are well documented, the long-term effects of e-cigarettes simply aren’t known at this time. But here are some points to consider: • The chemicals found in e-cigarette aerosols are also present in burnt tobacco smoke, but at lower levels. • One common side effect of e-cigarette use is mouth and throat dryness (xerostomia). • E-cigarettes are not licensed as medicine in Canada, whereas smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches and gums are.

What Are the Oral Health Concerns?

Studies show that increased exposure to nicotine increases your risk of periodontal disease. Initial research has shown the aerosol can alter the microenvironment in the mouth, possibly making bacteria more pathogenic. Dry mouth, as mentioned above, is another concern, and the link between dry mouth and tooth decay is well established. Studies show that increased exposure to nicotine increases your risk of periodontal disease.

How Are Teens More at Risk?

While it is mostly smokers and ex-smokers that use e-cigarettes, it appears that they’re also particularly attractive to the younger generation, raising concerns of their potential to act as a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes. The technology associated with e-cigarettes may have an intrinsic appeal to youths, given the transition we’ve seen to all things electronic over the past few years. The behaviour and movements associated with conventional cigarette smoking is similar to that of e-cigarette “vaping” as well. Of course, this is anecdotal evidence at best, and further research needs to be done to establish if there is, in fact, a link between the two activities.

What’s the Take-Home Message?

Because e-cigarettes are a relatively recent phenomenon, users are advised to proceed with caution. Some studies have shown positive results with respect to quitting traditional cigarette smoking, but currently, a cause and effect relationship has not been established, nor have the long-term effects of e-cigarette use. As such, licensed nicotine replacement products may be the best option for those seeking to quit smoking. If you are concerned that e-cigarette use is affecting your oral health, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with one of our dentists. Simply call 604-522-2425 to schedule an examination and routine cleaning.]]>

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