Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, deliver a dose of nicotine to users via a water-based vapor that lacks the chemical-laden smoke of traditional cigarettes. While the jury is still out on whether the benefits of a vapor delivery outweigh the risks, e-cigs can keep your teeth from getting as stained as tobacco products can make them. But are there any other benefits to your mouth and teeth from switching to e-cigs?
How Traditional Cigarettes Harm Your Mouth
When you take a drag of a traditional, tobacco-based cigarette, the dry heat that you experience creates a dry environment in your mouth. That lack of moisture can lead to problems with your mouth and especially your gums.
Cigarettes also have chemicals in them that can cause cancer in certain individuals. While lung cancers are typically caused by cigarette smoking, cancers of the mouth and throat can also result. Toxins can also cause increased plaque to build up on your teeth and gums, which leads to more tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Overall, the rate at which smokers' teeth fall out is twice as high as that of nonsmokers.
Pros and Cons of Electronic Cigarettes
The vapor that e-cigs produce contains less smoke and fewer carcinogenic chemicals than traditional cigarettes. One study found that vapors from popular brands of e-cigs contain anywhere from nine to 450 times fewer toxic substances than tobacco.
While e-cigs can also create a dry environment that puts you at increased risk for gum disease, there are ways to reduce that risk. Diligent users may be able to minimize the impact of less moisture by increasing their water intake throughout the day.
One issue with e-cigs is that the nicotine they contain, like with traditional cigarettes, can still reduce circulation throughout your body. Called a "vasoconstrictor," nicotine can keep your mouth from getting proper blood flow, which makes it harder to heal from small wounds and can make periodontal disease more likely.
Making the Switch
While no medical professional would advise you to take up e-cigarettes if you've never smoked before, many dentists are urging their adult smoking patients to change from traditional tobacco to vapor-based delivery systems. While the nicotine that comes in both kinds of cigarettes has its own side effects, the vapor-based e-cigs are better for your smile, your gums and your teeth.
Talk to your dentist if you have questions about how smoking has impacted your oral health and what steps you can take to switch to e-cigs or quit entirely.