One of the reasons why people have been taking up e-cigarettes is the notion that they’re safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. At this point, that still seems to be true, but we’ve spent over 100 years studying tobacco and just a few studying e-cigarettes.
And, safer or not, the more we research them, the more we begin to discover potential drawbacks to vaping. One is the (disputed) finding that using e-cigarettes may lead to smoking tobacco. And now research from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that e-cigarettes are actually toxic to gum tissues. The level of toxicity is unclear, but the research shows that both the vapor and flavoring can damage gum tissue.
Inflammatory Response and DNA Damage
For this study, researchers exposed healthy gum tissue from nonsmokers to vapors from e-cigarettes. The responses they discovered indicated that e-cigarette vapor can be harmful to gum tissue.
Researchers detected an inflammatory response to the vapors from the gum tissue cells. Damage to cells–including mechanical wounds and toxic exposures–trigger inflammatory responses. Inflammation is a key part of healing, but it comes at a cost, especially when maintained over long periods of time, such as with gum disease or with habitual use of toxic substances. For gum tissue, the cost is that gums are more likely to die, leading to receding gums. The inflammation response is also crucial to the process of bone loss.
In addition, researchers discovered DNA damage in gum tissue, triggered by the inflammatory response. Gum disease has been linked to the risk of many different types of cancer, possibly through inflammatory processes. And it’s possible that e-cigarettes could also be linked to cancer, though at this point it seems unlikely that they are as carcinogenic as tobacco cigarettes.
When researchers exposed gum tissue to flavored vapor, the inflammatory response increased significantly.
Nicotine Is Still a Risk
Many people who vape use e-cigarettes to get nicotine, the potent psychoactive drug in tobacco. Nicotine remains addictive, no matter what form it’s taken in, and it can be damaging to gum tissue.
Nicotine causes the constriction of small blood vessels, and sometimes even their death. This is not only responsible for the accelerated facial aging smokers experience, but also contributes to the increased risk of gum disease and tooth loss among smokers. Nicotine can both trigger an inflammatory response and inhibit the function of some immune cells.
Use E-Cigs in Moderation
There’s not enough evidence yet to recommend quitting e-cigarettes outright, but enough to advise caution. And if you are going to vape, you can reduce damage from them by using unflavored cartridges and minimizing nicotine.
If you are looking for a dentist in Rochester, NY who understands how lifestyle choices impact your oral health, please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with a holistic dentist at Contemporary Dentistry.