Cigarettes are a health hazard, so in an attempt to lessen their risk, many people have made the switch to e-cigarettes, but new research confirms that electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, still present a substantial health risk, especially for young people. While it may seem like the safer alternative, e-cigarettes are just as harmful as traditional cigarettes, and their use is on the rise in the United States among teenagers. The number of teenagers who have tried e-cigarettes has drastically increased. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that between 2014 and 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 19 percent. With new research, studies show a definitive connection between e-cigarette use and oral health issues.
E-cigarettes are electronic, handheld devices that vaporize a flavored liquid with the help of an internal heating element, and users inhale the vapors created by the device. The flavored liquid mixture is generally comprised of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavoring. Experts claim that heating these liquid mixtures changes their chemical composition, making the vapors considerably more toxic. According to a recent study published in Oncotarget, e-cigarette vapors alter the DNA of human mouth cells. On the more severe end, damage to these cells can lead to cancer, but at the very least, it can cause inflammation which is often a precursor to oral health issues. What is even more problematic is that “long-term inflammation of the gums can cause disease. Gum disease can destroy the tissue and bone that hold teeth in place. Severe gum disease even can lead to tooth loss.” [i] Though the first initial concern with any kind of cigarette use is cancer, other health issues can result. To further substantiate the potentially harmful effects of e-cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “will begin to apply and enforce key provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act as it relates to the sales, marketing, and manufacturing of e-cigarettes.” [ii] Both the FDA and the American Lung Association are concerned about the negative health impact e-cigarettes may have on public health and are taking action to curb increased rates of oral health issues as they relate to its use.
Dr. Stefania A. Caracioni, a Kansas dentist, has seen many patients over the course of her career that have oral health issues as a direct result of cigarette use. While e-cigarette use is gaining popularity, in many cases, the result is still similar. People are often first concerned with the risk of lung cancer when discussing smoking and tobacco use, but truthfully, the mouth is just as important.
“The mouth is a unified whole made up of many parts,” Caracioni said. “All of those parts are interconnected.”
That is why preventative dental care is especially crucial. While forging e-cigarettes and all forms of tobacco products is highly encouraged, people who do choose to use such products should be even more diligent about scheduling regular visits with their dentist in an effort to detect any potential oral health issues.
“General or traditional dentistry focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral -diseases,” Caracioni said.
This is precisely why early detection of oral health issues is important. The sooner the condition is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.
With new research emerging on the harmful risk of e-cigarette use, it is no wonder why organizations like the FDA and the American Lung Association are keeping a special eye on this issue. The bottom line is that e-cigarettes are still considered a tobacco product and thus carry similar risks that are associated with other tobacco products.
[i] Sundar, Isaac K., Fawad Javed, Georgios E. Romanos, and Irfan Rahman. “E-cigarettes and Flavorings Induce Inflammatory and Pro-senescence Responses in Oral Epithelial Cells and Periodontal Fibroblasts.” Oncotarget (2016): n. pag. Web.
[ii] “E-cigarettes and Lung Health.” American Lung Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.