Poor oral health and traumatic mouth injuries, the real risks of vaping

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This World Oral Health Day (20 March), Victoria’s leading health organisations are highlighting the newest threat to Australia’s oral health – use of e-cigarettes (vaping).

Research links vaping with an increased risk of tooth decay and incidence of traumatic mouth and facial injuries caused by the spontaneous explosion of e-cigarettes. Oral health professionals are also concerned about vaping increasing the risk of periodontal diseases. People who use e-cigarettes who previously never smoked are three times more likely to take up tobacco smoking – a proven risk factor for oral cancer and gum disease.

Susan McKee, CEO of Victoria’s leading public oral health agency, Dental Health Services Victoria, says it’s time Australians realised that when it comes to your mouth, vaping without a medical prescription is not safe.

“E-cigarette companies are trying to get a new generation of young people hooked on nicotine and it’s set to have a devastating effect on oral health. Vaping has been associated with changes in your gum health and oral bacteria as well as an increased risk of tooth decay. We’ve also seen people come into public dental clinics with horrific mouth and face injuries after their e-cigarette exploded.”

E-cigarettes are often mislabeled which means users have no idea they can contain up to 200 toxic chemicals, including nicotine and those found in paint stripper and weed killer, known to cause serious health effects.

McKee says the rapid uptake of vaping will only exacerbate Australia’s oral health epidemic. “Around 30 per cent of Australian adults now have gum disease and more than 5000 Australians are diagnosed with head, neck and oral cancer every year. We need to support people to prioritise their oral health. Instead, we’ve got kids as young as 10 vaping at school and e-cigarette shops popping up on every corner, some selling lollies and vapes alongside each other.”

Quit, the principal agency for population-level tobacco control in Victoria for 30 years, is concerned about oral health and the long-term broader health harms of vaping.

Quit Director, Matthew Scanlon said “It took several decades of longitudinal studies to prove the devastating health impacts of smoking. When it comes to vaping, we already know of incidents of lung injury, death, seizures, impeded brain development in children, dizziness, loss of concentration and exacerbation of mood disorders already reported around the world.

“In the past three years, an astonishing 77,200 Victorian adults took up vaping who’d previously never smoked, tripling their risk of taking up smoking. The number of people vaping overall more than doubled with young people the most likely to be using e-cigarettes. We simply cannot afford to wait. We need to act on vaping now,” Scanlon added.

Together with the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch, Quit, Cancer Council Victoria, La Trobe University and The University of Melbourne, DHSV is urging state, territory and federal governments to stop ignoring the impact of vaping on oral health. They are calling for new research and decisive action against the importation, marketing and ubiquitous sale of e-cigarettes, especially to children.

“There is increasing knowledge of e-cigarettes affecting your lungs, heart and respiratory system. Now it’s time to talk about how they can harm our mouths. Poor oral health impacts your ability to eat, sleep and socialise. And with the rising cost of living, paying for a dental appointment is getting further down the priority list. The last thing we need right now is a new generation of young people addicted to nicotine and vaping,” said McKee.

Position Statement: E-Cigarettes and Oral Health

5 Facts About Vaping & Oral Health

Media contacts:

Jacqui McCallum, Senior Communications Advisor,
Dental Health Services Victoria
0404 137 102 / jacqueline.mccallum@dhsv.org.au

Prue Gildea, Senior Media Advisor,
0400 394 274 / prue.gildea@cancervic.org.au

The following experts are available for comment and interview.

Vaping and oral health:

Susan McKee, CEO,
Dental Health Services Victoria
Dr Krati Garg,
Head of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery,
The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne

Clare Lin, Principal Population Health Advisor,
Dental Health Services Victoria

Associate Professor Santosh Tadakamadla, Head of Dentistry and Oral Health,
La Trobe University

Smoking and vaping cessation:

Matthew Scanlon, Quit Director