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Vaping and dental decay: New research suggests strong tie

Nov. 28, 2022
New research on vaping and caries shows patients who vape are more likely to have an increased caries risk—which should put DPs on alert, say experts.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

The first known study specifically to look into the relationship between vaping and an increased risk for dental caries has shown that patients who said they use vaping devices are more likely to have a higher risk of developing cavities.

Research from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine released last week analyzed data from some 13,000 patients ages 16 and older who were at Tufts clinics from 2019-2022 and showed that 79% of patients who vape were categorized as having high-caries risk, compared with 60% of the control group. The results were published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

In Tufts’ release on the study, Karina Irusa, assistant professor of comprehensive care and lead author, said the study’s findings an alert that the habit may be much more detrimental than was first known.

"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.

According to the release, one reason that vaping could contribute to a higher risk of cavities is the sugary content and viscosity of vaping liquid, which, when aerosolized and then inhaled through the mouth, sticks to the teeth.

What’s more, vaping aerosols have been shown make the oral microbiome more hospitable to decay-causing bacteria.

In a Medical History Mysteries segment on DentistryIQ, Tom Viola, RPh, CCP, said that vaping device solvents such as MCT oil are “very sticky, so you’re just giving the bacteria and other microbes in the mouth an extra foothold.”

Another common vape ingredient, isopropyl alcohol, “is very dry. So now you’ve got the opposite, xerostomia/lack of saliva, [causing] even more grief for the oral cavity.”

All told, he says, it “increases the risk of decay and caries formation – even on places you don’t expect to see caries,” adding that vaping use by younger patients “puts them 20 years in the future when it comes to their oral cavity.”

The Tufts researchers recommend dentists to ask their patients routinely about e-cigarette use as part of their medical history, which Viola echoed.

“Just because a patient vapes doesn’t mean they’re at risk, but [dental professionals] should be on high alert” for its ramifications, he says.

About the Author

Elizabeth S. Leaver | Digital content manager

Elizabeth S. Leaver was the digital content manager for Endeavor Business Media's dental group from 2021-2024. She has a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston and many years of experience working in niche industries specializing in creating content, editing, content marketing, and publishing digital and magazine content. She lives in the Boston area.