Electronic cigarettes, often perceived as a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes, are as damaging to gums and teeth as smoking, warns a new study.
The study by researchers at University of Rochester Medical Centre in the US is the first scientific study to address e-cigarettes and their detrimental effect on oral health on cellular and molecular levels.
Electronic cigarettes continue to grow in popularity among younger adults and current and former smokers because they are often perceived as a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes.
Previously, scientists thought that the chemicals found in cigarette smoke were the culprits behind adverse health effects, but a growing body of scientific data, including this study, suggests otherwise.
“We showed that when the vapours from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins, which in turn aggravate stress within cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases,” said Irfan Rahman, from the UR School of Medicine and Dentistry.
“How much and how often someone is smoking e-cigarettes will determine the extent of damage to the gums and oral cavity,” said Rahman.
The study, which exposed 3D human, non-smoker gum tissue to the vapours of e-cigarettes, also found that the flavouring chemicals play a role in damaging cells in the mouth.
“We learned that the flavourings — some more than others — made the damage to the cells even worse,” said Fawad Javed, a post-doctoral resident at Eastman Institute for Oral Health, part of the University of Rochester Medical Centre.
“It’s important to remember that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is known to contribute to gum disease,” said Javed.
“Most e-cigarettes contain a battery, a heating device, and a cartridge to hold liquid, which typically contains nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals. The battery-powered device heats the liquid in the cartridge into an aerosol that the user inhales.
“More research, including long term and comparative studies, are needed to better understand the health effects of e-cigarettes,” added Rahman.
The study was published in the journal Oncotarget