Smokeless nicotine is one of the prime selling points of snus, electronic cigarettes and other products, which claim to deliver the buzz of a cigarette without the bad breath. While scientists are still exploring the health effects of such goods, one thing is still certain: nicotine can cause oral odor all by itself.
Multiple studies indicate that nicotine is detrimental to tooth and gum health. For example, a report appearing in the Journal of the Indian Society of Periodontology announced that by slowing blood flow to the gums and inhibiting immune cell response, nicotine acts as one of the causes of halitosis, even when separated from tobacco smoke.
Another study, published in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, added that when injected intravenously, nicotine reduces blood flow and constricts vessels, which in extreme cases can lead to acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, an extremely serious gum disease.
So why is this chemical a cause of halitosis all by itself? The reason is simple. Nicotine is a natural insecticide. When consumed by insects, the compound causes tremors, disorientation and death. Taken in small doses by larger animals (like humans), nicotine acts as a stimulant.
The compound is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it tightens up the blood vessels, leading to lower blood flow to tissues and higher blood pressure. Over time, this reduction in blood supply can leave gums vulnerable to infection, which in turn increases the risk of bad breath.
In order to avoid gum disease, it goes without saying that you should eschew tobacco products of all kinds. And until scientists come to definitive conclusions about nicotine-only products, it may be best to avoid them and to use all-natural specialty breath fresheners.