According to the CDC, 9.1 million American adults and 2 million teenagers use tobacco-based vaping products. The e-cigarette (also known as a “vape”), was invented in 2003 by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik and was created as an alternative to smoking tobacco. Here’s what dentists should know about vaping and dental health.

Since e-cigarettes entered the marketplace in the United States approximately 20 years ago, there have been many questions surrounding vaping and dental health. Regular use of an e-cigarette has been known to alter the composition of bacteria in the mouth, increasing an individual’s risk for periodontitis, gum disease, tooth loss, dry mouth and softening of tooth enamel. 

Additionally, a recent study performed at the Tufts School of Medicine found that patients who reported using vaping devices were more likely to have a higher risk of developing cavities.

The paper suggests that one of the reasons vaping could increase a patient’s risk for cavities is due to the sugar content and viscosity of the vaping liquid. Many vaping products are sweetened with ingredients such vegetable glycerin. When this liquid is aerosolized and inhaled through the mouth, it can stick to the teeth. The study also found that vaping can change the oral microbiome in such a way that it promotes decay-causing bacteria.

In order to help mitigate the dental health concerns associated with vaping, the Tufts researchers recommend that dentists take a proactive approach with patients who vape by:

  • Using prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste.
  • Incorporating a fluoride rinse.
  • Performing in-office fluoride applications.
  • Scheduling more than two cleanings a year.

“It takes a lot of investment of time and money to manage dental caries, depending on how bad it gets,” says Karina Irusa, assistant professor of comprehensive care at Tufts and lead author on the paper. “Once you’ve started the habit, even if you get fillings, as long as you continue, you’re still at risk of secondary caries. It’s a vicious cycle that will not stop.”

If you’d like to read more information on vaping and dental health, read the study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association. For best practices when it comes to communication with patients, check out our risk management checklists on the topic.

In addition, dental professionals can stay up to date on the latest risk management guidance and alerts by monitoring the MLMIC Dental blogThe Scope: Dental Edition and Dental Impressions and by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn.