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Vaping linked to increased risk of tooth cavities

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Smoking is no good for your teeth, that is well-known. But what about vaping? New research from Tufts University suggests using e-cigarettes may not be that much better, finding an association between increased risk for cavities and vaping.

The new research, published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, looked at dental records from around 13,000 patients attending Tufts clinics across a three-year period up to 2022. Of those patients who reported using e-cigarettes 79.1% were classified as at a high risk of developing tooth cavities. This compared to 59.6% of those not using e-cigarettes recorded in the same high-risk cavity group.

The study is far from definitive, with an unusually small percentage of patients reporting using e-cigarettes. Out of the entire dataset, just 136 patients reported vaping, less than one percent of the cohort.

Karina Irusa, lead author on the new paper, is aware of the limitations of her findings. Speaking to Australia’s ABC News, Irusa said her findings were based on the assumption that the dental records analyzed were accurate and patients honestly reported behaviors.

“It’s important to understand this is preliminary data,” Irusa said. “This is not 100% conclusive, but people do need to be aware of what we’re seeing.”

While this study is the first to specifically look at associations between vaping and “risk” for cavities it is not the first to suggest e-cigarette use could have deleterious effects on oral health. Just last year another dental record study found those who used e-cigarettes were more likely to have untreated cavities than patients who didn’t vape.

Exactly how e-cigarette vapors could be damaging a person’s teeth is still the source of much research. It is possible these associational studies are simply detecting a correlation with no direct cause. So maybe the type of people who use e-cigarettes are also the type of people who eat more sugar-filled foods?

However, there is a small but burgeoning volume of study suggesting e-cigarette vapors could directly damage teeth. In 2018, for example, researchers found e-cigarette aerosols significantly increased bacterial adhesion to tooth enamels. This indicated vaping could increase cavity risk by helping decay-causing bacteria accumulate on our teeth. Another more recent study found flavored vape liquids in particular promote the growth of decay-causing oral bacteria.

Ultimately, Irusa is frank regarding how little is currently known about the effects of vaping on oral health. She suggests at the very least e-cigarette users should be a little more rigorous about maintaining oral health considering the practice of vaping could plausibly be harming one’s teeth.

“The extent of the effects on dental health, specifically on dental decay, are still relatively unknown,” she adds. “At this point, I’m just trying to raise awareness [among both dentists and patients].”

The new research was published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Source: Tufts University

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