Do E-Cigarettes Affect Oral Health?

Over the past few years, electronic cigarettes have become quite the topic of conversation. A trendy alternative to traditional cigarettes, many smokers have switched to e-cigarettes based on the assumption that they are safer. Chemicals found in traditional cigarettes can cause a myriad of issues for the smoker, and teeth discoloration and plaque build-up are just the tip of the iceberg. While e-cigarettes don’t contain as many harmful chemicals as traditional cigarettes, the vapor produced by e-cigarettes can still cause problems for the smoker. Since e-cigarettes have emerged on the scene, there has been an ongoing debate in the healthcare world about whether or not these cigarettes are actually safer. An important part of this conversation is the impact of e-cigarettes on oral health.

First, we should consider how e-cigarettes work. Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that are designed to look and feel like a traditional cigarette. To use an e-cigarette, the user fills the cartridge with a liquid containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. The liquid inside is heated and becomes vapor, which the user inhales. Though often used by those who want to quit smoking traditional cigarettes, they are also enticing to young people because of the flavorings that one can purchase. Unlike regular cigarettes, using an electronic cigarette enables the vapor to take on a tasty – often sweet – flavor. Cotton candy, grape, peanut butter and jelly, snickerdoodle, and toasted coconut are a few popular flavors.

While e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco like traditional cigarettes, they still contain nicotine. Nicotine, no matter how it enters the body, can contribute significantly to poor oral health. For one, nicotine reduces the amount of blood that can flow through your veins. Without sufficient blood flow, the gums are unable to get the oxygen and nutrients that they need to stay healthy and eventually, the gum tissue can begin to die. The reduction in blood flow can also mask the symptoms of gum disease. Typically, gum disease is diagnosed when the gums swell with blood; so when you floss or brush, they bleed. But because of the vein constriction in the gums, this telltale symptom of gum disease can’t be observed.

Another problem that can occur is reduced production of saliva. The vapor from e-cigarettes can inhibit your ability to produce saliva, which can cause bad breath, bacteria build-up, and dry mouth. Though these side effects may seem minor, a consistent lack of saliva can ultimately contribute to tooth decay.

On the surface, it may appear that the use of an e-cigarette is safe. While it seems clear that using e-cigarettes is nominally safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, using an e-cigarette doesn’t necessarily mean you are in the clear regarding health risks. More research is being conducted to determine the extent of health risks posed by e-cigarettes. In the meantime, however, current discourse suggests that the use of e-cigarettes can have a negative impact on oral health, so we feel it’s best to play it safe. If you have concerns about e-cigarettes and their impact on your oral health, please feel free to reach out to us at 207-781-5900 or ask us during your next appointment.

The Great American Smokeout and Oral Health

November marks the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout event. Each year, the third Thursday of November is designated as the challenge day for smokers to try to quit smoking and using tobacco for good. In support of this nationwide campaign, many establishments around the country, such as medical professionals and dental offices, will host free and public events to hand out educational materials, offer counseling, share encouragement, and distribute guidebooks in an effort to spread awareness. The Great American Smokeout is an encouraging social event that reminds everyone–smokers and nonsmokers–of how detrimental tobacco use is to oral and overall health.


With this annual event coming right up on November 19, 2016, The American Dental Association and dentists nationwide are taking part by spreading awareness to patients and communities all around. These public services and announcements educate us about how smoking can impact dental health. To continue sharing this chain of information, here are five ways habitual tobacco use may affect your oral health:


  1. Regular tobacco use is linked to oral cancer. An estimated 90% of patients diagnosed with oral cancer have evidence of tobacco use in their medical history. Oral cancers range from cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, gums, cheeks, and inner surface of the lips. People who smoke on a regular basis actually increase the risk of developing mouth and throat cancers overtime through long exposure. Quitting smoking and chewing tobacco can play a significant role in lowering your risk of developing oral cancers later in life.


  1. Smoking can lead to periodontal issues. Gums must be kept in good health to properly anchor teeth. When exposed to smoke, however, gums may become recessed. This can lead to tooth loss. Additionally, smoking limits the growth of healthy blood vessels, which slows down the healing process of gum tissue. This is a periodontal concern, for without healthy gum tissue the implant to replace your lost tooth is less likely to be successful.


  1. Smoking inhibits implant success for patients. Dental implants are used to replace lost teeth. People who continue smoking with dental implants may experience implant failure. Dental implants are a good fit for patients with healthy gums, adequate bone to support the implant, and good health. People who smoke regularly may not have healthy gums, deeming the surgery a risk. According to a clinical study, 15.8% of patients who have a history of smoking experience failed implant surgery. If dental implants are part of your recommended treatment plan, it’s important to try to quit smoking before surgery for the highest success rate possible.


  1. Tobacco products harm teeth. The unprocessed leaves in tobacco contain small particles that can be abrasive to teeth. This abrasion may wear down teeth overtime. Similarly, long-term tobacco use has proven to stain teeth by turning them yellow, dull the sense of the tongue, and compromise the sense of smell. These reactions from long exposure of tobacco use impact oral health quite significantly and it’s difficult to reverse these symptoms back to the normal state.


  1. Smoking can cause cavities. Much like sugars and bacteria, tobacco use causes cavities. Smoking can also increase a person’s risk of mouth pain and make them twice as likely to need root canal treatment. Mouth pain and numerous cavities could be indicators of future tooth loss. Quitting tobacco use and smoking altogether can prevent the formation of cavities and mouth pain.


In short, smoking and using other tobacco products play a huge role in impacting oral health. While not all smokers experience these symptoms, the risk of having them someday is significantly higher. In honor of the Great American Smokeout and oral health awareness, share this information with your friends and family. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to call us to schedule a check up as soon as possible at (207) 781-5900. We are here to serve!



Oral Cancer Awareness Month: Smoking and Dental Hygiene

Our teeth are under constant threat by the hazards that lead to periodontal disease: sugar and bacteria. For smokers, these threats become magnified by a factor of four! That’s right, smokers are four times more likely to develop periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. What’s more, once you have gum disease, smoking makes it harder for treatments to manage it.

The link between cigarette smoke and cancer is well known. With respect to oral health, this includes all oral cancers. Smoking increases the chances of developing oral leukoplakia, which has the appearance of thick, white patches along the gums, tongue, or cheeks. If you’re a smoker and you’ve noticed these white patches, it’s important that you try to stop smoking and consult your dentist or physician. If you continue smoking, leukoplakia could lead to mouth, tongue, or throat cancer.

Smoking can also affect the beauty of your smile. The same plaque and tartar buildup that can lead to gum disease can also make your teeth look unattractive. Smoking also leads to yellowing of the teeth and bad breath, which can impact your self confidence in addition to your smile.

If you are concerned about the impact smoking has had on your teeth, call us today to schedule an appointment.

smoking and dental hygiene oral cancer awareness month