Between 2011 to 2015, the use of e-cigarettes grew by 900% among high school students. More than 3.6 million middle and high school teens reported that they vaped in 2018. If you haven’t encountered the problem with your teen yet, chances are you will.
At Glow Orthodontics, we’re incredibly concerned about the rampant use of e-cigarettes. In addition to the physical harm of nicotine and other toxic chemicals in the vapors, teens also put their dental health at risk. Here’s everything you need to know about the dangers associated with vaping.
Teens believe vaping is safe.
Before we get into the health problems associated with vaping, it’s important to say that one of the biggest dangers is that teens believe vaping is safe. About 80% of teens say they don’t see any risk with vaping.
It seems reasonable to believe these products are safe because they don’t contain tobacco. But most teens aren’t aware that e-cigarettes contain other substances that are harmful to their body and their teeth.
How e-cigarettes work
Chances are you know that e-cigarettes come in a wide variety of attractive flavors, from chocolate, strawberry, and orange, to flavors that are advertised to transport teens to an island paradise. However, you may not know exactly how vaping works, so here’s a quick rundown.
Each e-cigarette has four pieces:
- Cartridge or pod, that holds an e-liquid solution containing chemicals and flavorings
- Heating element or atomizer, that turns the liquid into a vapor
- Power source, the battery that fuels the atomizer
- Mouthpiece, used to inhale the vapor
Your teen purchases the e-cigarette and the pod they desire, choosing by brand and flavoring. Then it’s just a matter of turning it on and smoking it just like a cigarette, inhaling the vapor into their lungs.
One in four teens engage in a practice called dripping, which is done by placing the e-liquid onto heated coils and breathing in the vapors rather than using the e-cigarette. This method is done to create a thicker vapor, improve flavors, and to produce a stronger throat hit. A throat hit is the sensation produced when vapors cause the throat to contract.
Ingredients in e-cigarettes used for vaping
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported in 2009 that e-cigarettes contain detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, although each brand contains a different amount. Tests show that some e-cigarettes claiming to be nicotine-free, actually contain some nicotine.
The vapors inhaled from e-cigarettes contain substances such as:
- Propylene glycol
- Vegetable glycerin
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
Nicotine is addictive and harms the developing adolescent’s brain. According to one manufacturer, one pod of some e-cigarette brands may contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
Diacetyl and formaldehyde cause lung damage, while acrolein is an herbicide responsible for irreversible lung damage. Acrolein may also lead to asthma or lung cancer.
Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are touted as safe — because they’re safe when consumed in foods. The dangers of inhaling these substances are still being researched. One study found that they alter genes in the lungs. Another study reported that it only takes a small dose of these substances to expose your teen to a high level of toxins.
Impact of vaping on your teen’s teeth
Vaping is such a new habit that we don’t know all the long-term health problems that may develop. However, we already have evidence that vaping causes significant harm to your teen’s gums and teeth. Here’s how three of the top ingredients affect dental health:
Nicotine significantly contributes to gum disease by inhibiting healthy cellular turnover and restricting blood flow.
When used orally, propylene glycol breaks down into substances that damage tooth enamel and soft tissues. Propylene glycol also causes dry mouth, which increases your teen’s risk for cavities and gum disease.
Vegetable glycerin combined with the flavorings used in e-cigarettes, encourage more bacteria to stick to teeth, causing a fourfold increase in bacteria-filled plaque. The flavorings in e-liquids also weaken tooth enamel. The combined result is a much higher risk for tooth decay.
It would be great if teens stopped vaping, but for now, it’s an entrenched and widespread habit that some have called an epidemic. For teens who vape, it’s more urgent to be sure they come in for a dental checkup every six months. To schedule an appointment, contact Glow Orthodontics.