Dentists are adding their voices to the growing chorus of health care professionals with concerns about e-cigarettes and vaping.
“There has been this uptick in use and attention toward vaping. A lot of the information targeting consumers promotes it as healthier than smoking cigarettes, but that’s misleading because it’s not without risks,” said Dr. Alec S. Eidelman, a research fellow with HSDM’s Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology, and dentist with the Cambridge Health Alliance.
According to Eidelman, a common symptom he sees associated with vaping is dry mouth syndrome, which can lead to more serious problems like cavities, gum disease, and severe gingivitis. He sees these risks being greatest among teens and young adults who are the most prevalent users of e-cigarette products and do not frequently visit the dentist.
With flavors like cotton candy and pineapple, e-cigarette use among younger populations has gone up dramatically and studies have linked sweeteners in these products to increased risk for cavities.
“When we do community outreach with high school students, and vulnerable populations in Cambridge and Somerville, we see teenagers and adults in their early twenties who aren’t going to the dentist until they have major problems,” he said. “When we go out into the community, we are able to see vaping-related conditions earlier than most providers do.”
Eidelman, who has a background in both dentistry and public health, sees the recent news coverage about vaping as a way for oral health providers to be part of the conversation. Through his work as a Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) Guest Board Member he was recently interviewed by a local television news station about why vaping can be dangerous for your teeth. MDS provides additional resources on their website about vaping and dental disease.
“Being able to work with the public has been my main interest. Health literacy is key. We are trying to increase awareness of the potential harms and educate the community of risks and ways to manage that,” he said.
With recent vaping deaths making headlines, Eidelman views Massachusetts current vaping sales ban as a necessary caution.
“We’ve already seen a death in Massachusetts officially associated with vaping. We’ve noticed through public health research there is either something in the product or the practice that raises it to a threshold of concern,” he said. “We want to press the pause button and figure out what’s going on.”