Open Your Mouth Wider

Posted 15th June 2015 by Dave Cross
As the paper’s authors themselves say, there has been little examination of vaping from the perspective of dental practitioners and its effects on the mouth. In their words: “This paper aims to focus on the oral health aspects of the debate and attempts to answer some of the key questions that face dentists,” and it comes to some welcome conclusions.

The paper is titled A Dental Perspective On Electronic Cigarettes: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and was published in the Oral Healthgroup magazine. Richard Holliday, Clinical Fellow & Specialty Registrar at the National Institute for Health Research Academic in Restorative Dentistry, and Claire Stubbs, a General Professional Trainee at the Centre for Oral Health Research at Newcastle University carried out the research.

The pair are independent of tobacco companies and electronic cigarette manufacturers so their opinion is impartial. They saw a situation where there was no coherent global approach to vaping and, although stating “further large scale randomised controlled trials are needed” they added:

  • “There is now a growing body of evidence to show e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation aid.”
  • “Nicotine containing e-cigarettes increased the chances of quitting long term compared to e-cigarettes without nicotine.”
  • “Using an e-cigarette with nicotine helped more smokers reduce the amount they smoked by at least half, compared to using an e-cigarette without nicotine or a nicotine patch.”
  • “There was no evidence that short-term e-cigarette usage is associated with health risk.”

The team were surprised that so little analysis has been given to the effects of vapour on the mouth: “The potential oral health effects of e-cigarettes has received very little attention, which is surprising considering the intimate relationship of tobacco smoke with several pathogenic processes in the oral cavity and also, the fact that e-cigarette aerosols will contact the oral tissues first when they are at their hottest and most concentrated.”

They note that although potential negative effects on the mouth vaping has must be looked at through research, it is essential to balance these against all of the benefits from reducing burnt tobacco smoke exposure.

“The smoking cessation and harm reduction ability of e-cigarettes has significant potential to reduce tobacco smoke related oral diseases, such as oral cancer and periodontal diseases. Achieving smoking cessation is notoriously hard and within the dental setting, one-year cessation rates are around 15 percent when using intensive interventions. E-cigarettes provide an exciting opportunity to improve on these rates but may also be particularly effective as a ‘harm reduction’ tool in the 85 percent of patients who failed to quit.”

This is a pair of clinicians who have totally bought into the harm-reduction aspect of vaping and their balanced take on the subject is to be welcomed. Their summary speaks volumes for the kind of balanced approach vapers wish more in the health industry would adopt: “e-cigarettes have many good features and a few potentially concerning features but as of yet, very few, if any, ugly ones. We should encourage a level-headed, yet cautious approach to e-cigarettes, which could be a game changer in the fight against tobacco. We should push for further good quality long-term clinical trials, as well as much needed studies into the oral health interactions.”

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker