Still smoking: The problem with e-cigarettes and hookahs

By – Bad Breath Expert
Posted: May 27, 2016, Updated: June 6, 2016
SUMMARY: Despite some claims, these cigarette alternatives still contain nicotine that can destroy your teeth and gums.

In recent years, a new trend has emerged among young and old alike: e-cigarettes and hookah pens. The National Institutes of Health explained that these devices work by simulating traditional cigarettes, delivering a vaporized form of a flavored liquid that is purported to be just as calming and relaxing as the real McCoy. E-cigarettes sold nearly $1.4 billion in 2013 alone, and it's become a hugely popular option for those seeking a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes. But are these e-cigarettes really that much better? Many of these devices still contain nicotine, and as scientists have known for years, this compound has true destructive potential when it comes to your teeth.

"E-cigarettes still contain a modest level of nicotine."

Just how much nicotine are in e-cigarettes?

If there's an upside to traditional cigarettes, it's that the industry is regulated, and that means manufacturers have to report specific information about what's inside of every pack sold. However, e-cigarettes aren't as regulated, so it's hard to discern just how much nicotine is in each device. A 2014 review in the journal Tobacco Control noted that while e-cigarettes contain less nicotine than cigarettes, they still contain enough of this chemical to do some long-term damage. Fortunately, e-cigarettes are set to be regulated starting mid-2016.

How does nicotine destroy teeth?

As it turns out, nicotine doesn't directly affect your teeth but rather the ability to produce saliva. It's this lack of saliva, that causes the real damage in your mouth. Without a constant flow of saliva, food and other particles can build up, and that will often damage the teeth as well as the gums. The longer this damage continues, the worst it gets, and that can eventually lead to conditions like tooth loss or decay, gingivitis and periodontal disease. And while e-cigarettes won't stain the teeth, that's not necessarily a good thing. It's often that sign - along with bad breath or plaque buildup - that can serve as an early indicator of more serious conditions.

So are hookahs any better? 

If e-cigarettes are bad for you, perhaps hookahs won't pose as much of a threat to your oral care. False. Hookahs, which have been used in some form since the 1500s, are popular because they use water to filter out harmful toxic chemicals. However, a 2015 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association noted that hookahs have been linked to a number of ailments including some forms of oral or esophageal cancers and most gum diseases. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization compared hookah to smoking 100 cigarettes, as hookah sessions tend to mean exposure over a greater period of time.

What should I do?

Whether you're smoking a cigarette, an electronic version or a hookah, you're compromising your oral health. Rather than finding safer ways to smoke, most doctors would advise you to kick this nasty habit entirely. The National Institutes of Health shared several effective ways to quit smoking, including:

  • Avoid smoking triggers, including everything from caffeine to places and people you'd smoke with.
  • Stay positive. The right attitude can go a long way to bolstering your spirits and breaking your nicotine reliance.
  • Keep yourself occupied with activities like watching a movie or jogging, all of which keep your mind off smoking.

If you're really not sure how to quit smoking, speak with your physician and develop a quit plan today.

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