A new study has added yet more evidence that vaping changes the oral microbiome – and not for the better.

“The oral microbiome is of interest to us because research shows that changes in its microbial community as a result of environmental and host factors contribute to a range of health issues, including cavities, gum disease, halitosis, and medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers,” said Deepak Saxena, PhD, professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at NYU College of Dentistry and the study’s co-senior author.

The study included 119 participants. Some smoked, some didn’t, and others used e-cigarettes. All underwent oral exams and gave saliva samples that were analyzed with 16S rRNA high throughput sequencing.

The researchers found that e-cigarette users had significantly different microbial communities than members of the other two groups. For one, they had higher levels of Porphyromonas and Veillonella bacteria, both of which are involved in gum disease.

The researchers also found that the altered microbiome in e-cigarette users influenced the local host immune environment compared to non-smokers and cigarette smokers. IL-6 and IL1β—cytokines involved in inflammatory responses—were highly elevated in e-cigarette users. Cell studies also showed upregulation of IL-6 after exposure to e-cigarette aerosols, resulting in an elevated inflammatory response. Moreover, e-cigarette aerosols made cells prone to bacterial infection, which points to a greater risk for infection in e-cigarette users.

Of course, scientific evidence is one thing. But sometimes it takes real world examples will drive the point home.

One patient of a general dental practice had a caries-free history for 35 years. He ceased smoking traditional cigarettes and decided to vape as he thought this was a healthier alternative. Within a year, cervical enamel demineralization and interproximal lesions were present on the mandibular anterior sextant [just behind the lower front teeth], consistent with the primary point of contact of the e-liquid aerosol (figure 2).

teeth badly damaged by vaping

Figure 2: Effects of e-cigarette usage

In another example, a young patient had been using e-cigarettes for five years. He started vaping as a method to quit smoking traditional tobacco products thinking vaping was a healthy alternative. Because of its ease of use, he smoked a cartridge of one of the more popular vaping products a day. Admittedly, he also drank energy drinks (high sugar content), stating that his mouth was often dry after vaping. This combination led to rampant decay with smooth-surface lesions and future tooth loss.

Yet there are those that still insist this is a “healthier” option.

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