How Can Vaping Affect My Teen’s Oral Health?

While more research needs to be performed, initial studies concerning vaping show that using e-cigarettes can be damaging to oral tissue. Since many vape cartridges do contain nicotine, which is a vasoconstrictor, vaping nicotine-containing liquids can constrict the arteries and reduce the necessary nutrients and oxygenated blood flow to the gums and other soft tissues of the mouth. Vasoconstriction can lead to a higher risk of developing gum disease, as bacteria thrive in a de-oxygenated environment. Research from 2018 found that teeth exposed to the aerosol in e-cigarettes accumulated more bacteria than teeth not exposed to vaping.

Vaping can contribute to oral health problems such as:

  • Gum recession and  tooth sensitivity : Nicotine, as well as heat from the vapor inhaled, can cause the gums to recede. If the underlying root structure becomes exposed, the teeth can be more sensitive to cold or heat. Receding gums can also lead to  malocclusions ( bite problems ) and loose,  overcrowded , or twisted teeth.
  • Xerostomia/dry mouth: Propylene glycol, a chemical in many e-liquids, can cause a lack of moisture in the mouth. When the mouth is not adequately hydrated, oral tissues are more susceptible to bacteria, and therefore  tooth decay ( cavities ), as well as acid erosion.
  • Stomatitis : Ulcers or lesions, usually on the upper palate can present after vaping due to the extreme heat of the e-liquid as it is vaporized. The oral tissue can become thick (hyperkeratosis), causing redness, irritation, and cracking. Stomatitis usually appears as dark-colored spots on the palate.
  • Teeth grinding ( bruxism ): As nicotine is a muscle stimulant, using vape pens which contain nicotine can lead to teeth grinding. Over time, bruxism can cause jaw pain and sensitivity, teeth flattening and cracking, and headaches.

Signs that vaping may be affecting your oral health include:

  • Red, irritated, or bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Gum tenderness or swelling
  • Loose teeth
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry cough