I’m a local dad and a dentist who works primarily with children. Nicotine damage has not been something I regularly encountered — until the last few years.
While vaping has been mass marketed as a safe alternative to cigarettes, I am here to tell you: It is no such thing. And I know this because I see the damage to my patients’ teeth on a consistent basis.
Given vaping’s huge popularity with young people, we should all be very concerned. Research shows that nearly half of Nevada teens, 13-18, have tried vaping, with 23 percent reporting they’ve vaped in the last 30 days. Kid-friendly flavors like cotton candy and chocolate make them even more popular with young people.
While nicotine is dangerous for everyone, it is especially so for teens, as it can harm adolescent brain development. Young people who vape can become addicted to nicotine, and are four times more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.
It’s also very bad for oral health.
The National Children’s Oral Health Foundation shares four ways vaping can ruin your teen’s smile:
- Nicotine can lead to gum disease and tooth loss. While vape juice contains a much lower amount of nicotine than traditional tobacco products (and can contain none at all depending on the user), the negative effect of nicotine on gums is well known. Not only does nicotine restrict blood flow to the gums, it also affects our mouth’s natural ability to fight infection and replenish connective tissue, leading to a higher risk of gum disease and tooth loss.
- Propylene glycol (PG) is toxic to enamel and soft tissue. PG is one of the main ingredients in vape juice and it causes dry mouth and takes away essential saliva, leading to cavities, bad breath and gum disease.
- Vegetable glycerin and flavorings help bacteria stick to (already soft) teeth. When combined with the damage caused by nicotine and PG, vegetable glycerin and flavorings create the perfect conditions for rampant decay, infections in the gums and tooth loss. Flavorings also decrease the hardness of tooth enamel by 27 percent.
- Lithium batteries pose a risk of overheating and explosions. Lithium batteries contained in a specific type of e-cigarette called a “mechanical mod” have been known to explode and cause extensive damage to the mouth and face. Although not very common (2,035 Emergency Room visits due to vape explosions between 2015 and 2017) they are generally caused by the misuse or improper care of the device. Considering that teens are likely not as responsible in the care of their e-cig device, it’s reasonable to assume they are at higher risk than most adult vapers to be injured.
Helping them quit
Research shows that 72 percent of Nevada’s teen vapers have reported wanting to quit. In fact, 44 percent of them have tried to quit 10 or more times. If you discover your teen is already vaping, there are tools out there you can use to help them.
- Start conversations about vaping early (elementary school if you can) and use natural conversation starters like seeing an e-cigarette on TV to engage them. Kids need to get this information from their parents, and they do listen.
- Share scientific facts about vaping vs. an emotional response.
- If they want to quit, consider offering judgement-free, punishment-free support.
- Connect them with My Life, My Quit, which offers free, 1-on-1 coaching and other resources.
- Additional resources from Parents Against Vaping include:
The bottom line? If you value your child’s beautiful smile, you’ll consider e-cigs just as dangerous as traditional cigarettes. And you’ll do everything you can to protect your children from them.
Dr. Perry Francis, his wife and two children have called Reno home for 34 years. At his practice, Wild About Smiles, his team specializes in dental care for infants, children, young adults and people with special needs. He has offices in Sparks and Fallon.