E-cigarettes are increasingly popular. Combustionless nicotine delivery systems, the devices work by creating an aerosol mixture of water vapor, nicotine, flavors, and other ingredients that can be inhaled by the user. Many people believe that these are less toxic than traditional cigarettes, but we don’t know for sure. Especially following insights about the impact of hookahs on oral health, it seems likely that e-cigs may also be harmful.
Now the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is funding a major push to find out. In the last couple of months, the NIDCR has announced funding for many studies on the impact “vaping” may have on oral health.
Through March of this year, the NIDCR announced $2 million in funding for seven major studies that were investigating the oral health effects of e-cigs. Since the mouth is the first point of exposure for e-cigarette vapor, it makes sense that the potential deposition of toxic substances in the mouth should be among the topics to be studied.
And since cigarette smoke has a major impact on your body’s ability to defend itself against gum disease, it also makes sense that e-cig research should also focus on this subject.
And because there are some who are concerned about the potential carcinogenic effect of e-cigs, it also makes sense that we should study the potential for genetic and epigenetic effects of e-cigs.
Others worry that e-cigs could change the microbiome of the mouth, making it more suitable for damaging bacteria than it is for healthy bacteria.
The potential effects being investigated are not strictly limited to the mouth, as one research grant is focused on the impact e-cigs might have on the development and healing of the jaw joint and muscles.
Even more recently, the NIDCR announced funding of a New York University study that would compare the oral health of nonsmokers, cigarette smokers, and e-cigarette users. There will be forty participants in each group.
In the study, all participants will be given an oral exam at the beginning of the study and six months later. Samples of their saliva will also be taken so that genetic testing can help determine the health of the oral microbiota. The hope is to observe whether cigarettes or e-cigarettes have a more pronounced impact on the mouth.
The study has been funded for $1.6 million over the next four years.
Whether you are a smoker, an e-cigarette user, or a nonsmoker, it’s important to make regular dental visits to ensure that your teeth and gums remain healthy.