Groundbreaking Study Shows that E-cigarettes Damage Gums, Teeth

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center also say that flavoring additives may worsen cell damage.

Bad news for your patients who use e-cigarettes, thinking they’re better for their health than regular cigarettes.

A new, first-of-its-kind study from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that those who use e-cigarettes are damaging their gums and teeth just as badly as those who get their nicotine fix from standard cigarette smoking. The research breaks new ground because it looks at the effect of e-cigarettes on oral health from a cellular and molecular level. The work was recently published in Oncotarget.

Related: Link Between Smoking and Inflammation Identified

E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular among young people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaping—a term for the practice of smoking an e-cigarette—tripled among middle and high schoolers from 2013 to 2014. The CDC says 13.4% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2014. The figure stood at 4.5% the year prior. Among middle schoolers, 1.1% used the devices in 2013, increasing to 3.96% in 2014.

According to a news release from the university, scientists had previously thought that it was the smoke itself from cigarettes that caused health complications, however, this study, among others, suggests otherwise.

Lead researcher Irfan Rahman, PhD, said in the University’s news release, “We showed that when the vapors from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins, which in turn aggravate stress within cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases. … How much and how often someone is smoking e-cigarettes will determine the extent of damage to the gums and oral cavity.”

Related: Long-Term Effects of E-Cigarettes Unclear

According to the news release, the study used human gum tissue and exposed it to e-cigarette vapor. Among the results was the finding that the flavoring chemical of the components “play a role” in causing harm to mouth tissues.

Fawad Javed, a post-doctoral student at Eastman Institute for Oral Health, said in the release that some flavorings “made the damage to the cells even worse.”

A useful reminder for your patients: “It’s important to remember that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is known to contribute to gum disease,” Javed said.