Health Effects of Vaping & E-cigarettes

What is a Vape?

E-Cigarettes are battery-powered electronic devices which heat liquid (E-liquid) and produce an aerosol inhaled by users (termed “vaping”). The main ingredients of E-liquids include: propylene glycol, glycerol as humectants, flavouring and often nicotine.

Oral Health Effects

There is little evidence as to the effect E-cigarettes have on oral health. However, E-cigarette companies claim use of these products can improve oral health by providing an alternative to conventional smoking. 2

Mouth and Throat

A variety of symptoms involving lips, tongue, hard palate and soft tissues were reported by E-cigarette users. Most commonly patients reported: dryness, burning, irritation, bad taste, bad breath, pain, oral mucosal lesions, black tongue and burns. Studies comparing E-cigarette and CC symptomatology showed less adverse effects were experienced by E-cigarette users, with some former smokers citing improvements in taste and mouth odour. Non-smokers using E-cigarettes reported greater levels of oral discomfort compared to those utilising nicotine replacement therapy.

Mucosal changes secondary to E-cigarette use appeared to be minor and temporary. Specific impacts relating to E-cigarette flavours were noted. Menthol and cinnamon were associated with increased mouth irritation, and throat symptoms increased with citrus, sour, cola and custard. Nicotine increases short-term blood flow to mucosal tissues, with the suggestion menthol may act to mask airway irritation likely caused by high nicotine levels. 

Is it safer for me to use E-Cigarettes than smoking conventional cigarettes?

No. There is insufficient evidence to say it is safer, hence if you are a non-smoker it is not safe to use them.

Do you recommend that I use E-cigarettes to help me quit smoking?

In isolation, no. However, as a smoking cessation tool E-cigarettes may potentially be effective when combined with a structured ‘quit smoking’ plan. This involves combining the use of E-cigarettes with other evidence based behavioural therapies and counselling. Involving your GP and national smoking cessation services as a combined approach is the most effective strategy irrespective of the cessation tool (eg: E-cigarettes, nicotine patches etc).

Is Vaping dangerous to my dental and oral health?

Yes. The oral effects of E-cigarettes based on use by non-smokers may include: mouth and throat discomfort, oral mucosal lesions, changes in the
oral microbiome, dental and periodontal damage. There is also evidence that vaping can cause changes at the cellular level of oral tissues, and that
constituents of E-liquid/vapor and downstream metabolites of these constituents have potentially dangerous genotoxic and carcinogenic
properties. Thus, there is likely to be an increased risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Furthermore using an electrical device with a battery
carries a risk of explosion, causing traumatic injury which could cause permanent harm.

Is it better to ‘vape’ rather than smoke cigarettes after I’ve had dental/oral surgery?

It is recommended to refrain from smoking or vaping for as long as possible after oral surgery. Conventional smoking is thought to damage healing
mechanisms, affect blood vessels, and contribute to poor filling of the tooth socket with blood. Regarding dry socket (Alveolar osteitis), no studies exist to enable a comparison between E-cigarettes and CC on this topic at present.