Author: Jaymie Hooper

To mark the start of Dental Health Week, oral medicine specialist Dr Sue Ching Yeoh explains the hidden dangers of vaping – and why it’s time to quit.

No matter which way you slice it, vaping is just not very good for you. Not only has it been shown to cause an onset of seizures, it’s also been linked to numerous deaths, and vaping liquids containing nicotine are so troubling they were recently banned in Australia. The bad press doesn’t end there, either. While we usually associate tooth decay and gum disease with cigarettes, vaping can also take a significant toll on your oral health.

According to Dr Sue Ching Yeoh, an oral medicine specialist and spokesperson for the Australian Dental Association, vaping also changes the composition and balance of your oral flora (bacteria and fungal organisms that live in your mouth), which leads to an increased risk of oral fungal infections.

“The most common oral side effects from vaping include dry mouth, burning, irritation, bad taste, bad breath, pain, oral mucosal lesions (lesions that affect the soft lining of the mouth), black tongue and burns,” Dr Yeoh explains.

These side effects are a result of the chemicals used in vaping liquids, which are usually created by heating glycerol, glycol and nicotine to extremely high temperatures under intense pressure. “This process produces extremely toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which are known carcinogens,” Dr Yeoh adds. “As the mouth is the first site in the human body to encounter these noxious elements, vapers are at risk of developing abnormalities, lesions and cancers of the oral soft tissues.”

Despite vaping’s well-documented adverse health reactions, recent research from the Australian National Drug Household Survey revealed that vaping among the 14-17 age group has doubled in recent years, and quadrupled in the 25-29 age bracket. So, if you’re set on vaping and not ready to quit just yet, is there anything you can do to avoid damaging your teeth?

According to Dr Yeoh, vape less often. “The likelihood of damage to the teeth and the oral lining seems to be associated with the frequency and overall amount of vaping,” she explains. “Signs of vaping-related oral damage can be picked up by your dentist, so vapers should be encouraged to seek regular dental care, check-ups and cleans.”

During an oral check-up, your dentist will carefully examine your teeth and gums and look at the soft lining of your mouth for infections and lesions. If anything is picked up, your dentist will refer you to a specialist for further investigation.

Not a fan of the dentist’s office? Let them know about your fears beforehand, practise calming exercises and ask what they can do to alleviate your anxiety. The importance of your oral health goes way beyond how good your smile looks. It’s also linked to your overall wellbeing and quality of life, and can impact everything from your risk of cardiovascular disease to fertility issues, so it’s worth investing in.

Dr Sue Ching Yeoh is an oral medicine specialist. She is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (General and Special Fields Stream); the International College of Dentists; the Pierre Fauchard Academy; and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow. She is the president of the Oral Medicine Academy of Australasia (OMAA) and the chair of the Australian Dental Association Therapeutics Committee.