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Myth busters for dental assistants: Vaping is cool

Oct. 23, 2019
The harmful effects of vaping are becoming more well known among medical professionals. Tija Hunter, CDA, reminds dental assistants that they may be the trusted staff members who can help some patients quit the habit.

Vaping is cool, less harmful than cigarette smoking, and safer for kids who want to try cigarettes. Right? Wrong!

There has been no evidence to suggest that vaping or the use of e-cigarettes is less harmful than traditional cigarettes. One pod can contain as much, if not more, nicotine than a pack of cigarettes.

What is vaping?

E-cigarettes are devices, not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that heat a liquid into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user. The liquid usually has nicotine, flavoring, and other additives in it. The nicotine in e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is addictive. E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products because most of them contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco.

Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful ingredients such as ultra fine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease, and volatile organic compound heavy metal such as nickel, tin, and lead.

Who is vaping?

Vaping among youth is on the rise. Children as young as 12 are jumping on the vaping bandwagon because many people believe it’s harmless and better than traditional cigarettes. It is estimated that e-cigarette use is equal to the epidemic cigarette use of the 1940s and ’50s.

Part of their appeal is that e-cigarettes have a lower cost per use than traditional cigarettes. Also, vaping cartridges are often mixed with flavorings such as apple pie and watermelon. Vaping does not have the odor that cigarettes do, and this also adds to their appeal.

How can dental assistants help?

Next to infection control, patient education is the most important thing dental assistants do. Since we spend more time with patients than anyone else, and they trust us, we can use that opportunity to talk to patients, particularly teens, about the dangers of vaping.

Some of the information you can share with them is that of this writing in mid-October, there have been 1,080 injuries and 18 deaths due to vaping in a variety of age groups. Those who are most at risk are people up to age 35.

It is believed that youth suffering with symptoms of pneumonia late last year and early this year could be related to e-cigarettes. Experts simply weren’t connecting the dots, and now they’re retracing their steps to find out how many related illnesses there have been.

Although about 74% injuries and deaths can be traced to people vaping THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects, the other 26% have no related causes, meaning they are not able to rule out anything at this point. There isn’t enough research to determine the harmfulness of these chemical agents. Since many people do not purchase pods from retailers but from alternate sources, this has become a big concern.

Take the time to talk to your patients and educate them about the dangers of traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaping. You may be the one person who is able to make a difference! 

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, MADAA, is the office manager and chairside assistant to Dr. Eric Hurtte of O’Fallon, Missouri. She is a member of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master and sits on three national counsels. She is also the Illinois Dental Assistants Association vice president. She is founder of the Dental Assistants Study Club of St. Louis and St. Louis Dental Office Managers Study Club. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, with five locations in the US. Tija is also the author of six CE courses. She is a national speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states. She can be reached at [email protected].