Can you smoke and keep your teeth healthy?
Smoking is one of those habits that have more demerits than benefits. For one thing, it has been associated with cardiovascular diseases, cancer and a high number of deaths. While those health problems may seem far into the future, its effect on oral health is more immediate.
Despite warnings from doctors, dentists and health practitioners, millions of people continue to smoke every day and even though smoking has been made illegal in some countries, smokers always find a way to feed this craving. Of course, there are also lots of campaigns geared at helping smokers quit, including nicotine patches, nicotine gums, and the much-lauded vape pens, but is there really a safe alternative when it comes to oral health? While it is common knowledge that smoking cigarettes is bad for your teeth, gums, and mouth in general, can these other options satisfy the behavioural habit of smoking without posing risk to dental health?
The popular alternative to smoking cigarettes
Vape tools have experienced an increase in popularity in the past few years and have been lauded as the safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. Additionally, the habit of vaping is seen as more socially acceptable in public because while real cigarettes emit noxious substances into the air that people close by can unknowingly inhale, vaporisers are entirely smokeless because they are either powered by batteries or induction coils.
Millions of people have switched from smoking to vaping because it is not as harmful to the body as a cigarette. It is also trendy, but does it pose any danger to the teeth and gums?
Factors to consider
Smoking – smoking has been around for centuries and this means that there is ample information available on the short and long term effect of smoking on oral health.
Bacteria: One of the ways smoking damages your teeth is by reducing the ability to fight off infections. How does this happen? Ingesting smoke causes the mouth to dry up. This causes bacteria to run free in the mouth as moisture and saliva are needed to wash away bacteria from inside the mouth. Over time, this can lead to long-term oral health problems including mouth odour and stained teeth.
Stained teeth: Because of insufficient saliva and moisture in the mouth, you will be unable to naturally clean your mouth of unwanted microorganisms. The longer the microorganisms are in your mouth, the easier it is for your teeth to get stained, a situation that can eventually lead to tooth decay or loss. But that is not all. Cigarettes also have the potential to stain and darken your teeth. Hardly would you see a long term cigarette smoker without stained teeth and gums. This is caused by the substances in the cigarette such as nicotine, tar, and even cigarette smoke.
Bad circulation: When you have bacteria clogged up the inside of your mouth, it can stop the proper flow of blood and oxygen from entering your mouth. Also, the tobacco and cigarette contents can rub against your teeth and gums, potentially weakening your enamels, which can lead to further problems in future. All these factors will result in severe mouth odour, which when combined with the smell of stale smoke in your breath, can cause significant discomfort for others.
Vaping – As earlier pointed out, countless numbers of smokers have embraced vaping because it poses less risk to one’s health.
When it comes to vaping, there are lots of options for the user. One of the most popular choices today are the handheld vaporisers and the really impressive table top induction rigs. And even though a lot of doctors and health practitioners are cautious with their approval due to its being a fairly new innovation, there are tons of materials and research that suggest that vaping does not have the same long-term effects as smoking and could actually save the lives of millions of smokers.
Bacteria: Cigarette substances like tar and nicotine leave residue in the mouth for as long as you smoke or until you clean your mouth entirely. However, because vaping does not produce any particulate matter due to its induction or battery powered system and zero combustion, bacteria is less likely to be produced in the mouth. A typical vaporiser contains ingredients like food/fruits flavours, mints, tobacco and possibly nicotine, but none of these items have been proven to put the user at the risk of being infected by bacteria.
Stained teeth: Just like with cigarettes, your teeth can get stained as a result of the nicotine in your vape ingredients. However, the beauty of vaping is that you can actually control how much or how little nicotine you use. In fact, you can choose to vape with only flavours and zero nicotine. If you are willing to do away with nicotine, you will definitely eliminate the possibility of stained teeth. Additionally, vaping doesn’t result into tar build-up, another factor that contributes to teeth and gum discolouration.
Of course, just like cigarettes, vaping can cause dry mouth as a result of the induction coil getting heated and distributed throughout the mouth, but this can easily be handled by staying constantly hydrated.
So what is the verdict?
That you choose to vape does not mean that you will not develop oral health problems, especially if you have smoked cigarettes for a long time. Long-term smokers tend to have oral complications without knowing it but a visit to the dentist will reveal them.
Also, while it may take a few years to completely understand the concept of vaping and its pros and cons, it is obvious that it poses less danger to oral health than smoking. This means that you can in fact vape and keep your teeth healthy. However, vaping is a personal choice and there could be downsides that we are unaware of. Regular visits to the dentist and proper oral health hygiene will go a long way in helping you enjoy healthy oral health.