Many people have turned to electronic cigarettes over traditional cigarettes under the impression that e-cigarettes are less harmful to one’s health.

That may be the case, but a recent study from New York’s University of Rochester Medical Center indicates that e-cigarettes are not without potential harms. The research is the first to find a direct connection between e-cigarettes and gum-tissue damage that can lead to periodontal disease, possibly even cancer.

E-cigarettes can damage gums

E-Cigs and Oral Health

The study examined the effects of e-cigarette vapor on oral health with a particular focus on changes in cellular and molecular levels. It has long been believed that the chemicals in cigarettes, which are inhaled directly through the mouth into the lungs and released externally through smoke, are directly responsible for cigarettes’ adverse health effects.

However, increasing research—including the University of Rochester study—suggests that smoke and vapors may trigger hazardous responses within the body. The research team found that exposure to e-cigarette vapors led cells within the gum tissue to release inflammatory proteins.

These proteins contribute to cellular damage that open the door to oral health problems, including gum disease. The study also intimates that the volume and frequency with which someone smokes e-cigarettes is tied to the severity of gum damage.

Flavor Does No Favors

Most electronic cigarettes employ small cartridges filled with liquid that contains nicotine and other chemicals. Nicotine alone has been linked to a heightened risk for gum disease, but many e-cig cartridges contain flavoring additives as well as the this addictive chemical found in traditional cigarettes.

Researchers found that exposing gum tissue to the vapors from flavored e-cig cartridges resulted in more extensive cellular damage than flavorless options. Some types of flavoring seem to be more harmful than others, though researchers are unsure why.

The study’s findings were published in the Oct. 24 edition of the peer-reviewed medical journal Oncotarget.

The Long-Term Effects of E-Cigs

Electronic cigarettes were introduced to the U.S. market in 2007. Because of the relative newness of e-cigarettes, research into their long-term health effects is minimal and still in progress. Likewise, regulations regarding the sales and use of e-cigarettes are still developing.

A September 2015 editorial in the Journal of the American Dental Association called for additional funding for research into the oral health effects of electronic cigarettes and for stricter regulatory control of e-cigarettes as a tobacco product. The authors of the University of Rochester study also called for further research into e-cigs and challenged manufacturers to disclose the chemicals used in their products so consumers can better understand the potential dangers of electronic cigarettes.

Chosen as one of America’s Best Dentists for 2016, Dr. Mark Dunayer is dedicated to providing comprehensive dental care to patients in the Rockland County, NY, area. If you’re due for a checkup or are considering cosmetic dentistry to restore your smile, please call B & D Dental Excellence at (845) 627-7645 to schedule your appointment at our West Nyack, NY, office.