It’s easy to see why e-cigarettes seem like a great alternative to regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, although they do contain nicotine derived from the tobacco plant, and they don’t produce smoke — instead they are battery-powered and work by producing an aerosol that you “vape” — so you can use them anywhere.
The problem is, e-cigarettes have not been fully2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded 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.”
Clinical studies are in progress at the moment to understand e-cigarettes’ impact on health — so until these are out, there’s a lack of definitive research on the health effects and still much we can’t know for sure.
What Are the Effects of Nicotine on Gum Health?
Studies have shown that nicotine — whether delivered via traditional cigarette or other means — does harm to the mouth, gums and tongue.
Nicotine may contribute significantly to the development of gingivitis and periodontitis, which can cause bad breath and inflammation throughout the body.
Here’s how nicotine can impact your oral health:
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it reduces the amount of blood that can flow through your veins.
Without sufficient blood flow, the gums do not get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy. Nicotine chokes tissues in the mouth from the blood it needs to survive, causing death of the gum tissues.
Nicotine Masks Symptoms of Gum Disease.
When you have gum disease, it’s the increased blood flow to the gums that tips you off or tips off your dentist to the fact that you have gum disease. The gums are irritated and swell with blood, and when you floss or even brush, they bleed.
This fools everyone — both the dentist and yourself — into thinking that things are going well in your mouth.
If the progression of gum disease can’t be observed or diagnosed, then things go south without treatment.
Even longterm chewing of nicotine gum can cause these problems.
Nicotine Causes Bad Breath.
As a vasoconstrictor, nicotine also inhibits your body’s ability to produce saliva. Not enough saliva can leave you susceptible to bacteria buildup, dry mouth, and tooth decay.
Nicotine Intensifies Grinding
Nicotine is also a stimulant that fires up the muscles, making you grind your teeth more intensely if you’re already a grinder — and might even prompt you to start grinding your teeth even if you weren’t a grinder before.
If you’re thinking about using e-cigarettes or you already use them, you’ve got to watch out for the signs of gum disease.
To diagnose gum disease, as well as measure its progression, your dentist will take something called a pocket reading.
“Pockets” are like the “moat” around each of your teeth, which is naturally present. It’s the space between the gum line (where you see your gums and teeth meet when you look in the mirror) and where the tooth and gum attach a little further down (see the illustration below). Deeper pockets indicate a breakdown of the attachment of the gums to the teeth.
The best and most convenient option here, and I know it’s hard to hear, is to eliminate the nicotine habit.