Dentists are finding that people who JUUL or use other vaping devices are ingesting chemicals and chemical by-products that may be seriously damaging their teeth and gums.
Dr. Scott Froum, a periodontist and clinical associate professor in the department of periodontics at SUNY Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, noticed troubling changes in a couple of patients who had taken up vaping. He published his findings in the Perio-Implant Advisory under the title, Vaping and oral health: It’s worse than you think.
In one case, the patient – a young man who quit smoking conventional tobacco products and started vaping, would often consume energy drinks to combat the dry mouth that vaping caused. Dr. Froum said that the combination “led to rampant decay with smooth-surface lesions and future tooth loss.” Dr. Froum said this patient had been vaping for five years.
Another older patient who started vaping after years of smoking cigarettes because he thought it would be a healthier alternative, had gone 35 years without cavities. But within his first year of vaping, the enamel on his teeth softened and eroded, making them vulnerable to future tooth decay and loss.
The second case prompted Dr. Froum to look into the existing research on the impact of vaping on oral health. But because vaping is a fairly new rage, gaining traction and momentum with the introduction of JUUL in 2015, many dots were left to be connected.
Other publications picked up Dr. Froum’s report, triggering a flood of responses from other dentists.
“We began seeing [the tooth decay], but didn’t realize what it was from,” Froum told CNET in an interview. “We had been noticing it in teens that weren’t at risk and then attributing it to other things like Monster Energy-type drinks. We never realized that vaping could also be a cause.”
Dentists and other dental medicine professionals are only now just starting to understand the damaging effects of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and vaporized nicotine on teeth and gums.
A form of alcohol, propylene glycol, can have a drying effect on the mouth, which is conducive to tooth decay. The chemical is used in JUUL cartridges and other e-juice brands because it emulsifies well with other vaping ingredients. It also breaks down into acetic acid, lactic acid, and propionaldehyde, all of which are known to soften tooth enamel and soft tissue.
Previous research also shows that the combination of vegetable glycerin and flavorings in vaping products creates a breeding ground for bacteria in the mouth. Teeth exposed to e-juice glycerin and flavorings had four times more bacteria than teeth that hadn’t been exposed.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin as generally safe for human health, but the chemicals can potentially break down into carcinogenic substances such as formaldehyde, lead, nickel, mercury, and other heavy metals.
Dr. Froum told CNET that vaping has been heralded as a safer alternative to smoking, even though little is known about how the chemical ingredients in a JUUL and similar products break down and behave and distribute when vaporized. He said U.S. regulators deemed vaping as the lesser of two evils and let it “go by unchecked and not researched.”
Even flavorings such as diacetyl, an artificial flavoring known for its butter-like quality, may travel farther into the body’s cells and tissue when vaporized, as it did to workers who inhaled the substance in popcorn factories where it is widely used. Many of those workers suffered a serious lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung.”
Thanks to decades of research on the health effects of conventional cigarettes, nicotine’s effects on oral health are much better understood. Decreased blood flow and cellular turnover caused by nicotine drastically increase the risk of gum disease and tooth loss.
This is especially bad news for JUUL users and others who vape products with a high nicotine content. JUUL debuted in 2015 with cartridges containing 5% nicotine, astonishingly higher than the industry norm at the time, between 1% and 2.4%. One JUUL cartridge has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
More research clearly needs to be done to track and document the effects of vaping on oral health, but the emerging evidence indicates vaping could be potentially more damaging to oral health than conventional tobacco cigarettes.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett are handling cases involving injuries related to vaping. We are looking at cases involving adolescent addiction and injuries including seizures, strokes, lung problems, and cardiovascular problems related to the use of JUUL vaping devices. If you have these types of cases, we would like to work with you.