Study Shows Just How Bad Smoking And Vaping Is For Your Dental Health

Tobacco use can be detrimental to our oral health. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), untreated tooth decay affects more than 40% of current cigarette smokers between the ages of 20 and 64. Those who smoke cigarettes are more susceptible to tooth decay and related dental health issues than non-smokers, and a new study published in JAMA Network lends further evidence to this.

Researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) monitored three to five years' worth of annual data from as many as 16,000 participants collected between 2013 and 2019, reports HealthDay. As outlined in the study, participants were asked how often they utilized tobacco products. Between 16% and 19% of participants routinely smoked cigarettes (via HealthDay). Roughly 2% to 3% of participants utilized cigars or smokeless tobacco. 

The study team looked at how different forms of tobacco use affected participants' dental health. This included the use of cigarettes, vapes, pipes, cigars, snus, hookahs, and smokeless tobacco products, per the study. Periodontal disease, precancerous oral lesions, bone loss around the teeth, bleeding in the mouth following brushing or flossing, loose teeth, and tooth decay or gum disease-related tooth removal were among the oral health outcomes identified by participants.

The link between vaping and gum bleeding

Specifically, study findings showed that those who smoked cigarettes were 33% more prone to gum disease (via HealthDay). Additionally, participants who smoked cigars were found to be more than twice as likely to develop precancerous oral lesions.

Furthermore, the risk of bleeding in the mouth after brushing or flossing one's teeth was found to be substantially higher in association with the use of electronic cigarettes, reports HealthDay. Offering a possible explanation for these findings, American Dental Association representative, Dr. Purnima Kumar, who was uninvolved in the study, states that the connection may have to do with the effects vaping has on the bacteria that inhabit our mouths. 

"What we learned is that the bacteria that live in your mouth treat vape exposure as if it's a food group," says Dr. Kumar, as reported via HealthDay. In essence, the chemical ingredients found in electronic cigarettes get broken down in the same way the bacteria in our mouth goes to work breaking down food. "Over time, what seems to happen is that a slime layer gets added to your biofilm, which makes it 'gunkier,' to use a technical term. And that leads to inflammation," Dr. Kumar explained. The researchers acknowledged that further study is still needed to better assess the long-term effects of smoking and vaping on human oral health.