Using vapes may set the stage for dental decay: Researchers say e-cigarettes and similar devices are associated with a higher risk for cavities

A vaping habit could end up leading to a tarnished smile, and more frequent visits to the dentist.

Research by faculty from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine found patients who said they used vaping devices were more likely to have a higher risk of developing cavities. With CDC surveys reporting that 9.1 million American adults — and 2 million teenagers — use tobacco-based vaping products, that means a lot of vulnerable teeth.

The findings of this study on the association between vaping and risk of caries — the dental term for cavities — serve as an alert that this once seemingly harmless habit may be very detrimental, says Karina Irusa, assistant professor of comprehensive care and lead author on the paper. The study was published November 23 in The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Over the last few years, public awareness has increased about the dangers of vaping to systemic health — particularly after the use of vaping devices was tied to lung disease. Some dental research has shown ties between e-cigarette use and increased markers for gum disease, and, separately, damage to the tooth’s enamel, its outer shell. But relatively little emphasis has been placed on the intersection between e-cigarette use and oral health, even by dentists, says Irusa.

Irusa says that the recent Tufts finding may be just a hint of the damage vaping causes to the mouth. “The extent of the effects on dental health, specifically on dental decay, are still relatively unknown,” she says. “At this point, I’m just trying to raise awareness,” among both dentists and patients.

This study, Irusa says, is the first known specifically to investigate the association of vaping and e-cigarettes with the increased risk for getting cavities. She and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 13,000 patients older than 16 who were treated at Tufts dental clinics from 2019-2022.

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