Using vapes may set the stage for dental decay

vaping dental caries
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US researchers have found that patients who said they used e-cigarettes and similar devices were more likely to have a higher risk of developing cavities. 

In their study—published in The Journal of the American Dental Associationthe team from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Boston, analysed data from more than 13,000 patients older than 16 who were treated at Tufts dental clinics from 2019-2022.

While the vast majority of the patients said they did not use vapes, there was a statistically significant difference in dental caries risk levels between the e-cigarette/vaping group and the control group.

Some 79 per cent of the vaping patients were categorised as having high-caries risk, compared to around 60 per cent of the control group. The vaping patients were not asked whether they used devices that contained nicotine or THC, although nicotine is more common.

“It’s important to understand this is preliminary data,” lead author Dr Karina Irusa said. 

“This is not 100 per cent conclusive, but people do need to be aware of what we’re seeing.” 

One reason why e-cigarette use could contribute to a high risk of cavities is the sugary content and viscosity of vaping liquid which, when aerosolised and then inhaled through the mouth, sticks to the teeth. (A 2018 study published in the journal PLOS One likened the properties of sweet-flavoured e-cigarettes to gummy candies and acidic drinks.) 

It has also been shown that vaping aerosols change the oral microbiome making it more hospitable to decay-causing bacteria, and that vaping seems to encourage decay in areas where it usually doesn’t occur—such as the bottom edges of front teeth. 

“It takes an aesthetic toll,” Dr Irusa said.

The Tufts researchers recommended that dentists should routinely ask about e-cigarette use as part of a patient’s medical history. 

The researchers also suggested patients who use e-cigarettes should be considered for a “more rigorous caries management protocol”, which could include prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste and fluoride rinse, in-office fluoride applications, and check-ups more often than twice a year.

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