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News / Sweet E-Cigarettes May Increase Caries Risk


A new research study published in the journal PloS One has found that using, or “vaping,” sweet e-cigarettes may increase the risk of dental caries.

Unlike combustible tobacco products, such as traditional cigarettes, cigars, and cigarillos, e-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, and a variety of flavors, including sweet flavors. Sweet flavors are classified as saccharides, esters, acids, or aldehydes. Users inhale the aerosol into their lungs.

Researchers of the study, “Cariogenic Potential of Sweet Flavors in Electronic-Cigarette Liquids,” systematically evaluated e-cigarette aerosols and found that certain e-liquid ingredients interact with hard tissues of the oral cavity in a manner similar to high-sucrose candies and acidic drinks.

With names like gummy bear and cotton candy, these sweet e-cigarette flavors appeal to middle-school and high-school students. The common perception that vaping is less harmful than traditional smoking has added to the rise in popularity.

The US Food and Drug Administration reports 81% of youth e-cigarette users cited the availability of appealing flavors as the primary reason for use in a 2013–2014 survey.

“Some sweet flavors and their chemical by-products can increase caries risk by promoting growth and adhesion of Streptococcus mutans to tooth surfaces,” notes study author Jeffrey J. Kim, DDS, PhD, a project leader at the Volpe Research Center, American Dental Association Foundation, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “… Youth and young adults are a uniquely vulnerable population to dental caries due to their high-sucrose diet and poor to minimal oral hygiene practice. And this is precisely the population that uses e-cigarettes the most.”

E-cigarettes are now the most used tobacco product among US middle- and high-school students, surpassing combustible cigarettes. A 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey reports e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product (3.3%) among middle school students in 2017.

The study’s findings suggest that the complexity of e-cigarettes on human health goes beyond respiratory and cardiac systems and may have significant implications on oral health.

“Vaping is not without health risk and e-cigarette aerosols are not harmless water vapors,” says Kim. “

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