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New Research Links Sweet E-cigarette Flavors with an Increased Risk of Tooth Decay

Written by Consumer Guide to Dentistry   Last modified on December 6, 2018

Earlier this year we published an article describing the dental health effects of “vaping” versus traditional smoking methods. While we urge you to check that article out, the long and the short of it was that vaping isn’t quite as bad for oral health as smoking combustible cigarettes, but it poses its own health concerns.

E-cigarettes and vaping has grown in popularity over the past couple of years, drawing considerable media attention. A new study supported by the ADA Foundation caught our eye given its oral health implications; specifically the relationship between vaping and tooth decay.

vape pen with sweet fruit

E-cigarettes and Tooth Decay

As we discussed in our previous vaping article, vaping can lead to dry mouth, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria and leads to tooth decay. The new research data published in PloS One suggests an even more direct link between vaping and decay.

The study focused on sweet flavored e-cigarette liquids — which are classified as saccharides, esters, acids or aldehydes — and their impact on tooth surfaces. The study found that exposure to the flavored aerosol produced by the sweet liquids led to a “two-fold increase in biofilm formation and up to a 27% decrease in enamel hardness compared to unflavored controls.”

Biofilm refers to the accumulation of bacteria on the teeth, an increased amount of which obviously increases the likelihood of bacterial damage. Couple this with the finding that the sweet liquids decrease enamel hardness (enamel serves as the tooth’s protective shield) and it’s clear to see the decay potential. In fact, the study’s lead researcher — Jeffrey Kim, DDS, PhD — concluded that the sweet flavored e-cigarette liquids were so bad for teeth that their impact could be classed alongside high-sucrose, gelatinous candies and acidic drinks.

Do You Vape?

If you are a non-smoker, then this is more noise than news as the dangers of smoking have no real impact on your oral health. But for those of you out there that switched to e-cigarettes because of the convenience or perceived health benefits over their combustible cousins, it’s essential that you speak with your dentist about how to better protect against tooth decay and other dental concerns.

Quitting smoking would obviously be the first recommendation for better dental health, but for those unwilling or unable to quit there are ways to limit the bacteria damage and protect your teeth. Rinsing with water or mouthwash after vaping, or chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate the flow of bacteria-fighting saliva are two ways to help mitigate bacteria buildup.

As the vape craze continues to grow and evolve, Consumer Guide to Dentistry will continue to provide new findings related to dental and oral health. For related information, we encourage you to check out some of our other articles:

7 Dental Health Concerns for Smokers

Combating Cavities – 6 Surprising Ways to Prevent Tooth Decay

The Effects of Diet and Nutrition on Oral Health

Cariogenic Potential of Sweet Flavors in Electronic-cigarette Liquids – PloS One – Sep 7, 2018
About Electronic Cigarettes (E-cigarettes) – CDC