E-Cigarettes Harmful

E-Cigarettes Harmful

There was a surprising article written by Honor Whiteman that revealed the harm that e-cigarettes can have for our oral health.  They are marketed as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes, but when it comes to our oral health, new research suggests that vaping may be just as harmful as smoking.

An article was published in the journal Oncotarget revealing that researchers had found the chemicals present in electronic cigarette vapor were just as damaging, and in some cases even more damaging to the mouth cells, as tobacco smoke.  This can lead to an array of oral health problems that include gum disease, tooth loss and even mouth cancer.

The battery-operated e-cigarette devices contain a heating device and a cartridge that holds a liquid solution. The device vaporizes the liquid when the user “puffs” on the device resulting in vapor being inhaled.  E-cigarettes do not contain the highly harmful tobacco, a highly harmful component of conventional cigarettes, but they do contain nicotine and other chemicals, including flavoring agents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the e-cigarette usage has increased in recent years, especially among the young people.  About 16% of high-school students in 2015 reported using the devices where only 1.5% used the devices in 2011. There is little known about the long term effects of vaping on the health, but e-cigarettes are considered to be safer than conventional smoking by many.

The research team exposed gum tissue of nonsmokers to either tobacco or menthol-flavored e-cigarette vapor and found that tobacco-flavored vapor contained 16 milligrams of nicotine, while the menthol flavor contained 13-16 milligrams of nicotine or no nicotine.  All e-cigarette vapors caused damage to gum tissue cells comparable to that caused by exposure to tobacco smoke. When the vapors from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins, which is turn aggravate stress within cells and result in damage that could lead to various oral diseases.

Even though it is a fact that nicotine is a known contributor to gum disease, the e-cigarette flavoring appears to exacerbate the cell damage caused by e-cigarette vapor, with menthol-flavored vapor causing the most harm.  

Another study published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology revealed a high rate of mouth cell death with exposure to e-cigarette vapor over just 3 days and killed 53% of mouth cells.  E-cigarette vapor was pumped into the chamber at a rate of two 5-second puffs every 60 seconds for 15 minutes a day and performed over 1, 2 or 3 days.  Upon analyzing the vapor-exposed epithelial cells under a microscope, the researchers identified a significant increase in the rate of cell damage and death.  It was found that with exposure to e-cigarette vapor, the number of dead or dying cells rose to 18%, 40% and 53% over 1, 2 and 3 days, respectively. This leads researchers to believe that their findings are a cause for concern as over the longer term, it may also increase the risk of cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon

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