If you smoke, chances are that your dentist may have mentioned that the habit can threaten more than just your heart and lungs. While things like emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease continue to receive the lion’s share of attention when it comes to smoking-related health threats, your dentist is just as likely to be concerned about what it can do to your mouth. After all, cigarettes can pose a serious risk to oral health. In an effort to minimize these heath risks, many smokers have switched to the new electronic cigarettes. The question is, though: are the new e-cigs still a threat to your dental health?
The Facts about Cigarettes
Traditional cigarettes contain hundreds of ingredients that can produce harmful effects when they are ignited. Each time a cigarette is burned, thousands of chemicals are created, including many cancer-causing carcinogens and others that negatively impact human health. From a dental perspective, the tar and nicotine can be equally as threatening. The enamel in your teeth can absorb both compounds, leaving them discolored. That vast array of chemicals can also lead to oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth loss.
A Look at Electronic Cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes are often promoted as a healthier alternative to traditional “burner” cigarettes. Many brands look very similar to those cigarettes, and they all provide the nicotine smokers need – without the thousands of harmful chemicals that make those old smoking tools so dangerous. And, perhaps most importantly, they produce none of the smoke that is so damaging to lungs and tissue. Instead, these battery-powered cigarettes convert liquid nicotine into vapor – which is why the act of smoking an e-cig is commonly referred to as “vaping.”
There are certain things we know about these devices: they produce no smoke, which means that there is no secondhand smoke. They are odorless, and have no tar. They are also less costly than tobacco products. And without the tar and thousands of other chemicals contained in those tobacco products, they certainly pose less risk to your teeth. However, a reduction in risk does not equate to eliminating the risk altogether.
Electronic cigarette health studies are ongoing, but there are some things that we now know:
- E-cigs do contain some toxins, but they are at levels that are hundreds of times lower than traditional cigarettes.
- Nicotine has been demonstrated to restrict blood flow, and that can diminish the mouth’s ability to clean itself and fight off disease. Because of that, any nicotine use can be potentially harmful.
- A 2014 study revealed that e-cig use helped smokers halve the amount of nicotine they used, making it an effective cessation tool.
At Ebenezer Dental, we recognize that the best decision is to not smoke at all. There are always risks associated with nicotine usage, since even smaller amounts of nicotine can pose a potential threat to the health of our patients’ teeth and gums. At the same time, the current research does seem to indicate that electronic cigarettes may offer a reduced health risk, which may make them valuable tools for those who are earnestly attempting to stop smoking. If you’d like to learn more about oral health from the best dentist in midtown Manhattan, give us a call today.