Each generation of teenagers defines cool trends for themselves. Sometimes, these trends come back to haunt us as adults in the form of embarrassing photos (Mom, why is only one pant leg rolled up on your jeans?), but they don’t usually impact our health for years to come. One of the biggest trends with teens today, however, poses serious long-term health risks. We’re talking about vaping. Vaping, the term teens used to describe smoking an e-cigarette, continues to attract teens at an alarming rate. Indeed, the latest numbers state that “more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students” currently uses some form of e-cigarette. With these numbers, the Surgeon General declared youth e-cigarette use an epidemic in the US. Not only does vaping have nicotine addiction implications for your teen, but their oral health can suffer greatly, too. The effects of vaping on teeth and your teen’s overall oral health are real and serious.
5 Ways Vaping Harms Your Teen’s Oral (and Overall) Health
Your teen’s oral health plays a crucial role in their overall health. Vaping leads to tooth decay, mouth sores, bad breath, snoring, and more. Below we cover 5 ways how vaping harms your teen’s teeth e-cigarettes lead to these undesirable consequences for your teen’s dental health.
1. Weakens Tooth Enamel
The outer layer of the tooth, the enamel, is amazingly strong. As we’ve discussed in other blog posts, however, sugars and acids can dissolve tooth enamel. Sweet vaping liquids with names like Crème Cookie, Lemon Tart, Candy Crash, and Cinnablaze, are extremely popular with young vapers. These vape juices contain sweeteners, flavorings, and chemicals that attack tooth enamel with each puff. The sweeteners are extremely sticky and difficult to brush off of teeth. Also, the chemicals are acidic and dissolve tooth enamel with repeat or extended exposure. As a result, those who vape experience a 27% decrease in enamel hardness. Weakened tooth enamel makes teeth more susceptible to cavities.
2. Restricts Blood and Nutrient Flow to Gums
In order to keep healthy teeth, your teen needs healthy gums. After all, they serve as the structural glue for our teeth. Most e-cigarette juices contain nicotine. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict or get smaller. As a result, the blood vessels under the influence of nicotine cannot deliver the optimal flow of blood and nutrients your teens’ gums require. The constriction lasts for about 2 hours after inhaling nicotine; furthermore, nicotine’s byproducts remain in the body for up to 2 weeks. In other words, nicotine continues to negatively impact your teens oral health for days after their last puff.
3. Encourages the Growth of Harmful Oral Bacteria
Saliva plays an important role in your teen’s oral health. Healthy saliva levels help wash food particles and plaque away throughout the day. Likewise, it also helps maintain a healthy pH level in the mouth. In short, healthy saliva levels prevent cavity-causing bacteria from growing in your teen’s mouth. Vaping disrupts saliva production, however. In fact, vaping causes dry mouth due to the use of propylene glycol (PG). PG is the clear, syrupy liquid used to mix together nicotine and flavorings in e-cig juices. When heated, it vaporizes to give that smoking sensation to users. PG molecules are hygroscopic. In other words, they bond easily with water molecules they come in contact with. As a result, each time your teen vapes, the inhaled PG molecules act like a sponge. They absorb all the water molecules out of your teen’s saliva, as well as out of their mouth, throat, and nose tissues, too. This drier environment encourages harmful oral bacteria to grow. In fact, researchers discovered that vapers have more bacterial in their mouths than others. These bacteria often cause bad breath. More alarming, these bacteria can take advantage of the weakened tooth enamel discussed above and cause tooth decay.
4. Stains Teeth
Your teen’s teeth, much like their skin, contain pores. These pores absorb the nicotine found in e-cigarettes, and when nicotine meets oxygen, it turns yellow. The result is yellow teeth. Moreover, your teen cannot easily brush away all of this staining. The staining can settle deep inside the enamel and even reach the next tooth layer, the dentin. Tooth bleaching may be needed to remove the staining, which in turn can lead to tooth sensitivity. Stained teeth may not sound as serious as increased bacteria levels and decay, but in the world of a teen, appearances matter. A stained smile can make a teen lose confidence in their appearance. It also may mean more expenses at the dentist to brighten their smile back up.
5. Vaping can cause your teen to snore.
Snoring is more than just a nuisance. Snoring means that your teen is breathing with their mouth open while they sleep. The nicotine in e-cigarettes causes the muscles in your teen’s throat to relax, which allows them to flop around and block their airway during sleep. This open-mouth breathing dries out the mouth, makes your teen more prove to cavities, and robs robs them of the 5 benefits of nasal breathing. Indeed, snoring means your teen is not getting the full rest and health benefits a good night’s sleep provides. And as we all know, teens require adequate sleep as their bodies and brains continue to develop.
Dr. Laura Adelman and Dr. Rachel Rosen are pediatric dentists who are passionate about teens’ oral health.
We hope that understanding how vaping harms your teen’s teeth will encourage you to have a conversation with your teen if you think they may be vaping. Not sure? Check our our blog 10 Signs Your Teen May Be Vaping. A blog, however, cannot provide adequate advice for your teen’s oral and overall health. The best source of oral health advice for your child is your pediatric dentist. Only they will be able to determine the best treatment and prevention options based upon your child’s dental history. Located off of Darrow Road just north of Hudson, Ohio, they are taking new patients under the age of 12. They invite new patients to request an appointment today. One of their friendly team members will be in touch to find the right day and time for your first visit.