ADA National Children’s Dental Health Month: Vaping and Teens
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and I usually like to talk about general best practices for preventive dentistry for our younger patients. I encourage parents in our practice to model and encourage a good home care routine with brushing, flossing and rinsing. I recommend regularly scheduled check-ups, hygiene maintenance, and a healthy diet and lifestyle to optimize oral and overall health.
This year I wanted to focus my education efforts for children’s dental health month around the need for parents and patients to understand the growing health issue of vaping and its effect on teens. Tobacco-less smoking of e-cigarettes, known as vaping, poses alarming health risks and it is not as innocent and harmless as advertisers portray, or that teenagers are led to believe.
In December last year the Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, issued an official advisory declaring e-cigarette use among US teenagers an epidemic. This advisory includes educational information for parents, teachers and health care providers. The advisory was issued because of the dramatic increase in e-cigarette use amongst teens in 2018. In fact, according to the advisory, it was the single largest one-year spike in substance abuse by young people in the last 44 years.
I encourage parents to talk openly with their kids about the marketing and advertising that is targeted to them and creates a false notion of safety and fun when it comes to vaping. E-cigarettes contain carcinogenic chemicals and one flavor pod can contain as much nicotine as two packs of actual cigarettes! The addictive nature of the nicotine is what gets kids hooked so they will keep using the products, but many kids think because there is no tobacco there must be no nicotine.
Vaping and the nicotine delivered into the body through an e-cigarette can have a direct impact dental health and we see signs of it in teenage patients including:
- Not enough saliva which leads to bacteria buildup, dry mouth, and tooth decay. Nicotine prevents your body from producing saliva.
- A reduction in the flow of oxygen to the gums can cause the death of gum tissues and lead to recession. Nicotine reduces blood flow to your gums delivering less oxygen and the nutrients that keep them healthy.
- Bruxism or teeth grinding, can lead to tooth damage and other oral health complications. Nicotine is a stimulant that can worsen bruxism, or teeth grinding.
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Red, irritated, or bleeding gums
- Tender or swollen gums
- Wiggly or loss of teeth
Myself, and the entire team at Maplewood Dental Arts, are committed to educating our patients, parents and teens, about the risks vaping and e-cigarettes pose to your dental and overall health. Speaking with your kids about risky behaviors early and often can go a long way in helping them make responsible decisions when the time comes. We strive to have open communication and develop relationships with our patients based on trust and solid information about risk factors and healthy choices.
Be sure to ask any questions you may have next time you’re here. If we can help improve knowledge and understanding around this important issue we are happy to help!