Smoking versus vaping: which is worse for your teeth?
Connor Hughes weighs up the detrimental effects smoking and vaping can have on your oral health.
It’s now common knowledge that smoking can have seriously disastrous effects on your oral hygiene, and despite constant reminders from dentists and medical practitioners, millions of people still smoke today. While it’s now illegal to market smoking in most countries and around the world, people are still choosing to live a life fuelled by nicotine.
Of course, there are on-going campaigns to help people stop smoking, including nicotine patches, gum and the highly controversial smoking ‘substitute’ of vaping.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at the effects that smoking and vaping have on your oral health and whether or not vaping is actually a better substitute for smoking.
Smoking versus vaping: three factors to address
Let’s start with smoking as it’s been around for longer, meaning there is far more information on the long-term effects.
Bacteria: smoking damages your teeth in various ways, the worst being the way it shuts down your mouth’s ability to efficiently deal with infection. This means that if you do fall to an infection, your mouth has literally no defence mechanism, which then means that bacteria is free to spread and remain inside your mouth. Over time, this can lead to severe problems, of which I shall address below.
Teeth staining: the longer the bacteria remains inside of your mouth, the more susceptible your teeth will become to staining and yellowing. This can eventually lead to tooth loss, which will require root canals.
Poor circulation: the cesspit of bacteria forming in your mouth will also stop blood flow and oxygen from efficiently entering your mouth. So, all the grit and tobacco you’re inhaling will rub and chip against your teeth. Not only is this physically uncomfortable, but your enamel will become weaker by the day, leading to further problems.
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More people than ever are making the switch from smoking to vaping in order to help them quit smoking once and for all. Although studies on the overall safety of vaping are still largely inconclusive due to it being a fairly new concept (in comparison to smoking), we’ve discovered a few interesting statistics that suggest vaping may not harbour the same long-term effects as smoking.
Let’s compare the issues raised in smoking with vaping.
Bacteria: tar and nicotine remain in and around the mouth for a long time, usually until you properly clean your mouth or stop smoking altogether. Vaping, however, doesn’t produce any particulate matter, meaning bacteria is less likely to be produced. The main ingredients present are water, propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin and nicotine if you so desire. E-liquids are the final ingredient, usually these simply contain flavourings used to mimic the taste of fruits, mints and tobaccos. None of which have been proven to put the user at risk of coming into contact with bacteria and/or mould.
Teeth staining: what makes teeth yellow, or what stains teeth is nicotine and tar. The problem with vaping is that it’s up to you how much nicotine you choose to have (vaping doesn’t use tar). So, if you were to vape without nicotine? It seems less likely that your teeth would stain. Simply put, the greater your intake of nicotine, the more susceptible your teeth are to staining.
Those who vape with zero nicotine are thought to be at a lesser risk of tooth discolouration. Additionally, vaping (specifically the e-liquid) doesn’t produce any tar build-up, which is another reason for teeth discolouration.
Poor circulation: bacteria is the cause of poor circulation when smoking. With vaping, neither tobacco nor grit need to be present. As you can choose to vape with zero nicotine, logic suggests that your circulation won’t be taking anywhere near as much damage in contrast to smoking. Of course, vaping is known for giving some users a dry mouth, a result of the coil being heated and therefore distributed throughout your mouth. However, this can easily be fixed/tackled by staying hydrated.
So, what’s the verdict?
Well, we still need a couple more years for more evidence to surface regarding the overall safety of vaping. It’s not innocent of being risk-free, not by a long shot.
What we do know, however, is that vaping doesn’t contain tar and it doesn’t have to contain any nicotine – which are two of the biggest elements that cause tooth and gum disease. Only time will tell if vaping is truly safer than smoking, but it looks to be winning the debate with each passing day.