E-cigarettes may be less harmful in some ways than traditional cigarettes, but they can still cause negative health effects, including oral health issues. Ingredients in the liquid component of e-cigarettes can increase the risk of cavities.
How Cavities Start
Bacteria in the mouth feed off the sticky residue left behind on teeth after eating or drinking something high in sugar. As the bacteria consume particles left on teeth, they release acid as a byproduct of their metabolism, which creates a more acidic environment in the oral cavity. The bacteria thrive in acidic conditions and produce substances that form a film on teeth, known as plaque. Over time, plaque breaks down the tooth enamel and leads to the formation of cavities.
The Role of E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes can cause cavities in multiple ways. The ingredients in vaping liquid change the pH in the mouth, which creates an acidic environment that promotes cavities. The ingredients in the liquid can also stick to teeth, which increases bacteria in the mouth. The resulting biofilm forms plaque and leads to cavities. Vaping can also decrease saliva, causing dry mouth and cavities.
Flavoring ingredients in vaping liquid can contribute to the formation of cavities. E-cigarette liquids come in a variety of flavors, many of them based on sweet flavors of fruits, candies, or desserts. Chemical compounds that add sweetness to the liquid include sucrose, sucralose, esters, and sugar alcohols. The flavoring ingredients in the liquid used in vaping have a similar effect as sugary or gelatinous foods on teeth.
Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin comprise two key components that make up the base of e-cigarette liquids. Both compounds are colorless and odorless, with a sweet taste. When combined with the flavoring ingredients, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin cause the liquid to stick to the surface of teeth.
Additionally, propylene glycol is hygroscopic, absorbing moisture inside the oral cavity and causing dry mouth. Dry mouth can lead to cavities because adequate saliva is needed to effectively rinse particles from the teeth and buffer the acid level.
The most effective way to prevent cavities from vaping is to stop using e-cigarettes. For people who continue to vape, minimize the damaging effects by practicing good oral hygiene and drinking plenty of water. Brushing or rinsing with water immediately after vaping will help to prevent plaque from forming on teeth. Drinking water also keeps the mouth hydrated, helps to regulate the pH in the mouth, and rinses the surface of teeth. Be sure to schedule regular dental care appointments to keep on top of vape-related oral health issues.