Since its market launch in 2007, the popularity and use of vape pens or electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has risen dramatically. Using an e-cigarette is called” vaping” or “JUULing.” E-cigarettes are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “vapes,” “e-hookahs,” “vape pens,” “mods,” “JUUL’s,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).” Sometimes an e-cigarettes can look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. But most of the youth are using e-cigarettes that look like USB flash drives, pens, highlighters, credit cards, remote controls and other everyday items. This can make it difficult to know whether your child is using these products.
E-cigarettes and the Youth
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the use of vape pens has increased 78% with high school students from 2017-2018 and 48% with middle schoolers. Kids, teens, and young adults are at risk for addiction. Vapor lounges, houses, and stores are appearing in our cities, usually in centrally located areas like shopping malls. Ads and the variety of tasty flavors, including flavors like cotton candy, are geared to appeal to the youth.
At the office of Brent J. Porter, D.D.S., your Santa Cruz children’s dentist, we have information posted in our teenage wing indicating the harmful effects of vaping. In addition, Dr. Porter makes an effort to talk with the teens about the dangers of the addiction associated with its use.
How Do E-cigarettes Work?
E-cigarettes produce an aerosol to be inhaled by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. The liquid used in e-cigarettes is sometimes called “e-juice,” “e-liquid,” “vape juice,” or “vape liquid.” These liquids are usually made up of propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, and water, and may contain nicotine or marijuana. It is difficult for consumers to know what ingredients are contained in e-cigarette products. Some e-cigarettes marketed as containing zero nicotine have been found to contain nicotine. E-cigarettes contain carcinogenic chemicals and one flavor pod can contain as much nicotine as two packs of actual cigarettes!
A user inhales e-cigarette aerosol into their lungs. This is NOT a harmless water vapor as it contains harmful and potentially harmful substances. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales it into the air. The aerosol vapor creates a thick plume surrounding the device and user, but quickly evaporates into the air leaving no sign behind. For this reason, young users find it easy to use these products in their rooms, bathrooms, or hang out spots with no trace left behind.
Effects on Dental Health
E-cigarettes, like its traditional predecessor, can cause periodontal disease as a result of nicotine ingestion. One harmful effect is that nicotine inhalation inhibits your ability to produce saliva, which can leave you susceptible to bacteria buildup, dry mouth, and tooth decay. The mouth’s natural ability to fight damaging bacteria is limited.
Another effect of vaping with nicotine is that it can cause the gums to recede. It causes the blood vessels to restrict and decreases blood flow to the gums. With continued use, nicotine or heat from the vapor increases the risk of gum recession and exposure to the underlying root structure. In addition, the acid byproducts of propylene glycol in the e-liquids are toxic to tooth enamel and soft tissue.
Lastly, the glycerin and added flavors giving e-liquids their tasty flavors, create a film on the teeth while causing the enamel to soften. With a weakened tooth, cavity causing bacteria have their chance to decay the teeth.
Studies have also shown that vaping can cause an array of dental problems, such as:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tooth decay
- Tooth loss
- Plaque build-up
- Bad breath
- Bruxism (grinding your teeth)
- Gum recession and infections
- Vapor’s Tongue
“Vaper's Tongue” is a condition that causes taste to be dramatically reduced or diminished. It can come on unexpectedly and without warning.
Liquid nicotine might be the most dangerous part of an e-cigarette. It’s highly addictive and toxic. Even small amounts of this liquid absorbed through the skin or swallowed can cause vomiting and seizures, and could be fatal for a child. The refillable containers are not child proof and “e-juice” comes in candy flavors and bright colors that kids love.
Nicotine acts as a stimulant that fires up the muscles. If you already grind your teeth (bruxism), it can make it worse. If you are not a teeth grinder, you may start. Bruxism is a condition in which you regularly grind, gnash, or clench your teeth. When left untreated, bruxism can lead to tooth damage and other oral health complications.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE! Chemical Substances Found in Vaping Devices: Very surprising and So Very Sad!
- Propylene Glycol - commonly used in theatrical fog. It is considered safe when ingested but little is known about long-term health effects when inhaled.
- Lead- used in car batteries. It is highly toxic and has been banned from paint products. Lead poisoning stunts growth, causes nausea and vomiting and damages the brain.
- Acetaldehyde- Carcinogen found in cigarettes smoke. It irritates the skin, eyes, mucus membranes, and throat and respiratory tract.
- Formaldehyde- embalmers use it to preserve dead bodies, it causes cancer and can damage your lungs skin and digestive system.
- Toluene- commonly used in paint thinner. It is highly toxic. Exposure to even low levels can cause headache, nausea and wheezing.
- Cadmium- commonly used in batteries. It causes damage to the liver, kidneys and brain and stays in the body for years.
- Acetone- commonly used in nail polish remover. It can irritate the eyes and depress the central nervous system.
- Acrolein- used as an herbicide to control weeds and algae. It is a toxic irritant for skin, eyes, and nasal passages.
- Nickle- commonly used in stainless steel, magnets and batteries. It causes cancer and can damage your lungs and immune system.
How do I know if my child is vaping?
Due to the rising epidemic of vaping in school age children, its important as a parent to be aware that it is difficult to know if your child is participating. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself. This might be a way to at least start a conversation with your child regarding vaping. As the popularity of vaping continues to rise, early intervention is the key.
- Are you smelling sweet odors coming from behind your child’s door? Kids are drawn to the sweet smelling and tasty flavors “of e-juice”
- Are there tech products or dropper bottles in your child’s backpack that you do not recognize? E-cigarettes can look like USB flash drives, pens, highlighters credit cards or remote controls. E-juice comes in refillable dropper bottles.
- Have you found chargers, coils, or batteries that do not look familiar? Check your child’s room and trash can for mechanical things you do not recognize. These may be replacement parts for their device.
- Have there been changes in your child’s behavior such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or impulsive actions? Vaping nicotine can slow brain development in teens and affect memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention, and mood. In addition, combining vaping and caffeine can cause anxiety and severe mood swings
- Is your child suffering from headaches or nausea? A headache or nausea may occur because the nicotine level is too high. The dehydration caused by propylene glycol, or even a propylene glycol sensitivity may trigger a headache.
- Is your child consuming large volumes of water? The moisture in the skin and mouth is removed from vaping. With a dry mouth, your child may crave liquids to restore the hydration lost from vaping.
- Is your child looking for salt or spicy foods? With the moisture gone in the mouth and throat, they may lose their sense of flavor. This is called “Vapor’s Tongue.” Food becomes less flavorful. They may be seeking out salty or spicy foods because everything else tastes flat.
- Is your child having increased nose bleeds? Since vaping draws out the moisture in the mouth and nose, the nose can get dry and bleed.
- Is your child having unusual skin breakouts? Your child may experience break outs of acne on usually controlled skin.
For more information please contact the office of Brent J. Porter D.D.S., Santa Cruz Children’s Dentist (831) 459-9802