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What are Electronic Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes are increasing in use as a replacement for traditional cigarettes. While e-cigarettes are thought to be less harmful than regular cigarettes, there are growing warnings about their use. E-cigarettes work with batteries and are designed to deliver nicotine and other chemicals in vapour format to the user.

Electronic Cigarette Warning

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A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General presented research and recommendations for the use of electronic cigarettes, especially their use among young adults and adolescents. The report was reviewed by 150 experts and highlights the risks associated with using electronic devices. Findings included nicotine addiction, behavioural risks towards the use of other drugs or tobacco products. There is also potential harm from aerosols produced by the e-cigarettes. The aerosols can contain harmful chemicals and are not just made of water vapour.

Health Canada has advised Canadians not to purchase or use electronic smoking devices because they may pose health risks and they have not been properly evaluated for quality, safety, and efficacy.

The FDA states that “e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don’t know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.”

Electronic Cigarettes & Nicotine

Numerous studies have shown that nicotine causes harm to the gums, tongue and mouth, regardless of if it is delivered by traditional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, or other avenues. It may also contribute to the development of gingivitis and periodontitis. While nicotine is delivered in lower amounts when compared to traditional cigarettes, long-term use will still have an impact on your oral health. Here are the ways in which nicotine affects your oral health.

Gum Recession

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Image showing area of gum recession

Nicotine can cause gum recession or shrinkage of the gum tissue levels in the mouth. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means that it reduces blood flow in the veins. When the gum tissue does not receive adequate blood supply, they will lack oxygen and other nutrients that are required to stay healthy. Long-term exposure to nicotine and prevention of sufficient blood supply to the gums will result in death to the gum tissues.

Masking Signs of Gum Disease

When gum disease is present, the gums will become swollen and will bleed. When there is reduced blood supply caused by nicotine, signs of gum disease such as bleeding or swollen gums may not be present. This can lead to the false assumption that use of electronic cigarettes has improved gum health.

Nicotine May Cause Grinding

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Nicotine is a stimulant as well. If you currently grind your teeth, it may cause you to grind your teeth with more force. If you do not grind your teeth currently, it may cause you to start grinding your teeth. Over time, grinding of the teeth will result in headaches, damaged tooth enamel, tooth sensitivity, and more.

Monitoring Your Oral Health

If you currently use e-cigarettes or any electronic smoking device, it is important to have your dentist regularly monitor your oral health. Since nicotine can mask the signs of gum disease, it is advisable for your dentist to monitor your bone levels and periodontal pocket levels. An increase in pocket readings usually signifies that bone loss has occurred and possibly loss of gum tissue. The best option is to stop all forms of smoking of course. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about tips and resources to help you quit smoking.




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