As vaping grows in popularity, we have many important questions to answer about its impact on the oral and overall health of users. Preliminary research seems to suggest that vaping might have less impact on oral health than tobacco. But we also know it’s not entirely harmless. But what about the cosmetic impact?
New research suggests that vaping doesn’t stain teeth the way that smoking does. Although this makes sense, and the research seems good, we have to be mindful that this study was conducted by a producer of vaping products and hasn’t undergone scientific review yet.
Extracting Staining Compounds
There are many potential ways to test staining related to vaping. One would be to just look at the teeth of regular vapers. If their teeth show staining, we know that vaping causes stains. But it’s sometimes hard (not to mention expensive) to get together a group of people for long-term studies of this nature. So it’s normal to set up a condition of simulated vaping in a lab to see what the potential impact might be.
That’s what this study did. They used a puffing robot (no joke) to produce smoke and vapour. This was then collected onto a filter pad. The filter pads were then treated with a solvent to remove the staining compounds. The staining compounds removed from the pads were then introduced to cows’ teeth prepared to simulate human teeth. These teeth were polished to mimic human teeth, soaked in saliva, and exposed to the extracts for 14 days.
At the end of 14 days, the teeth exposed to the material from tobaccos smoke were clearly stained, but the teeth exposed to vaping compounds were barely discolored if at all.
Why We Need to Be Skeptical
The results of the study seem impressive at first. Looking at the tooth samples, the cigarette smoke clearly causes stains, but the vaping compounds don’t.
However, there are many reasons to be dubious of these results. First, there are many steps that could introduce uncertainty. Would the staining on teeth be the same as the staining collected by the filter pads? Is the solvent used adequate to take the stains from the pad and then transmit them to the teeth? Were the cows’ teeth properly prepared and handled to simulate human teeth?
We don’t know the answers to those questions because of the second reason to be dubious: the study hasn’t been reviewed by independent scientists.The study was presented at an academic conference, which is intentionally open to allow many people to bring preliminary research. There is a very low bar for research to qualify for these conferences. Peer review is not required. When the research is reviewed by independent sciences for publication in a scientific journal, we’ll have a better idea of its validity.
Finally, the study was conducted not in an independent lab, but by the R & D division at British American Tobacco. It included the British American Tobacco product glo, a “tobacco heating product,” or THP. These devices heat special tobacco sticks to around 240 degrees Celsius (over 450 degrees Fahrenheit), creating an aerosol that contains tobacco flavor and nicotine.
The boilerplate for the press release notes that British American Tobacco has invested more than $2.5 billion over the past six years in developing products like glo, and hope to have revenue of over $7 billion by 2022. So they obviously have a stake in making the product look good.
Make Smart Choices
Holistic dentistry teaches that everything we do has the potential to impact our oral health. Habits like smoking, vaping, and oral tobacco use channel potentially harmful compounds through our mouth on their way to the lungs, blood vessels, and brain. This means that whatever else their impact, the mouth may experience the worst consequences.
Overall, research suggests that vaping might be better than smoking, but it’s not harmless. Instead, it can harm your gums and teeth in ways we don’t fully understand. It’s best to avoid habits like this to keep your teeth healthy.