The Impact of Vaping on Oral and Vision Health
For decades we’ve known about the very negative health consequences of smoking: lung disease, heart disease, cancers including mouth, nose, throat, sinus and gum, and much more. In recent years an alternative product was introduced to the marketplace: e-cigarettes. Because e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco (but still contain nicotine) they have been positioned in the marketplace as a “healthier” alternative to smoking.
What is it?
An e-cigarette is a shortened name for Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). They are also known as e-cigs, vape-pens, vapes or e-hookahs. The actual shape can vary, but many look like cigarettes, pens or USB flash drives. Most e-cigarettes contain a heating element, a place to hold a liquid, or “pod” and a battery. E-cigarettes heat the liquid and produce an aerosol that is breathed into the lungs. The contents of the liquid can vary but usually contains nicotine – the addictive drug found in tobacco products – flavorings and other harmful or potentially harmful chemicals. Vapes can also be used to deliver marijuana or other drugs.
While there appears to be less health issues than smoking, a number of issues have begun emerging with some of the most prevalent affecting oral and vision health. It should be noted that because e-cigarettes are a relatively new product, research is still catching up to the health issues doctors and dentists are now confronting.
Teeth and Gums
A 2018 research study that looked at flavored pods (i.e. sweet flavors with properties similar to sugar) found that vape aerosols produced four times more bacteria adhesion to enamel and the results were even higher for pits and creases found in teeth. The same study also found a 27% decrease in enamel hardness. What, exactly, does this mean? It means vaping can lead to more cavities (bacteria on teeth can lead to tiny holes or cavities), tooth decay and gum disease.
Other studies have found direct correlations between vaping and gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums while peritonitis is a serious gum infection that damages soft tissue, destroys the bone that supports your teeth and can cause teeth to loosen or fall out. In some cases, gingivitis can precede or lead to periodontal disease.
Throat and Mouth
Some studies have found that vaping can cause dehydration because it sucks the moisture from your mouth and skin. This can lead to a dry mouth, dry cough, dry skin and dry eyes. Other side effects as reported by e-cigarette users include throat irritation, tongue irritation, lip irritation and bad breath. If you decide to use e-cigarettes, staying hydrated should offset some of the problems but engaging in good oral hygiene will help keep other potential side-effects at bay.
Eyes and Vision
There are several eye related diseases associated with smoking. While none have yet been conclusively linked to e-cigarettes, it’s important to note nicotine is the leading cause of these illnesses. Because nicotine is also the primary ingredient in vapes, it is good to know what eye-related diseases to watch for if you use e-cigarettes. It’s also a good idea to let your eye doctor know if you vape so they can look for early warning signs.
- Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Dry Eye Syndrome
- Other Health Issues
One of the most serious issues currently being reported by doctors around the country are related to lung illnesses, like pneumonia, or more serious illnesses that in some cases have led to death. The exact cause is not yet known but the only common link reported among patients was vaping. Experts believe the cause could be a contaminant or one of the chemicals found in the aerosols.
Other health issues that have been tied to nicotine use include:
- High blood pressure and increased heart rate
- Cardiovascular disease
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Cancers including lung, stomach, bladder and esophageal
Because the product is relatively new, much more research needs to be done to determine the full spectrum of possible health issues related to e-cigarette use.
The Take Away
Now that you know vaping can cause a number of dental and vision health issues, there are several ways to combat or avoid these problems. First, be sure to get regular preventive dental and vision check-ups so your dentist and eye doctor can identify any early warning signs of disease. Secondly, if you vape, consider quitting. If you don’t vape, don’t start.
If you or a loved one is looking to quit vaping, here are some resources to get started:
My Life, My Quit: mylifemyquit.com
Smoke Free: smokefree.gov