Vapes, vaping products, or e-cigarettes are often seen as a ‘safer’ alternative to regular cigarette smoking, most likely due to their lack of smell and appealing designs. But the truth of the matter is that there has been very little research on their long term effects, especially in young people.
The most obvious risks are the potential for the release of formaldehyde and contaminants when the vaping liquid is heated. From a dental perspective, these harmful toxins can cause irritation, cell damage and inflammation to the mouth and throat.
Oral-specific side-effects include the usual effect of nicotine- which is a vasoconstrictor- dry mouth. Dry mouth is very well documented as a cause of increased tooth delay. Beyond nicotine and its side effects, vaping can still cause harm because the mouth is the initial receiver of any inhaled substances. Meaning the mouth is going to receive the largest concentration of harmful chemicals which can increase the risk of oral cancer and gum disease.
In the YourOralHealth.ca magazine Spring/Summer 2019 edition, Dr Deborah Saunders, the Medical Director of the Dental Oncology Program at Northeast Cancer Centre in Sudbury stresses that when teens purchase vaping products from friends or on the street, there’s no way to tell what they are actually purchasing.
“Teenagers think it’s safe. It’s cool, the flavours they’re able to use. Just the advertising, the way it looks, is fun and experimental,” Saunders says. The cool factor of vaping is in stark contrast to the use of cigarettes, which teens don’t find cool.
In February, Canada’s health minister announced new measures to address the increase in vaping product usage by youth and teens. The measures include a public education program and advertising restrictions towards youth.
Hopefully with the combined efforts of healthcare professionals, parents, teachers, responsible advertising, and an informed public, we can help combat the interest in this new, potentially deadly ‘gadget’ among teens.
Do you have questions about the risks of vaping and oral health? Send us an email or ask us on our Facebook page! We’re happy to help you understand your options!