Smoking, vaping & your teeth: cannabis, nicotine, tobacco
Smoking or vaping? Tobacco or cannabis? Is there a lesser evil?
While the detrimental effects of smoking on mouth, gums and teeth are well studied and commonly known, most of this data applies to smoking traditional (combustion) tobacco cigarettes, and many people are wondering; is smoking cannabis as bad for our oral health as smoking cigarettes? And what about vaping or using water pipes? We don’t intend any shame or judgment upon those with smoking habits, but the team at Neesh Dental wants everyone to know the risks. This blog gives an overview of all forms of smoking tobacco and cannabis so you can weigh the associated risks to your oral health.
We all know smoking interferes with good oral health
In Saskatoon, The Smoking Control Bylaw prohibits smoking or vaping in outdoor public places owned or operated by the City. This doesn’t keep people from continuing the habit though. Our downtown dental clinic sees many people with a variety of reasons to smoke tobacco or cannabis, including to manage stress and anxiety, to promote relaxation, to boost focus, as a social ritual, a distraction or to kill time, or a habitual self-soothing behaviour. However, no matter what is in your pipe or cigarette, smoking presents many challenges in the maintenance of oral health.
Let’s go over the risks: smoking increases your risk of heart disease, and respiratory disease. Daily smoking often leads to gum disease and increases the risk of oral cancers, throat cancer, and esophageal cancer. “Combustible cigarette smoking (CCS) has been causally associated with major morbidity and mortality.3 Indeed, numerous experimental and clinical investigations have linked tobacco use with over 25 diseases, including lung, heart and oral diseases, such as oral cancer.” Smoking stains teeth, leading many folks to request teeth whitening or other costly cosmetic dental services in Saskatoon.
Tobacco, nicotine and teeth
Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of preventable disease in Canada—and that includes periodontal disease and oral cancers. “The Canadian Dental Association strongly advises against the use of tobacco products because of the unacceptable risks posed to general and oral health”
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical compound made by several types of plants, including the tobacco plant. It is also produced synthetically in the pharmaceutical industry. All tobacco products contain nicotine including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or snuff, hookah tobacco, and most e-cigarettes—we touch on each in this blog. Because it is highly addictive, nicotine increases the danger of disease-causing tobacco products and vaping.
Risks of nicotine use for your mouth:
- increases heart rate and blood pressure, which is linked to poor oral health
- causes your blood vessels to constrict or narrow, restricting blood flow to the gums and contributing to periodontal disease
- changes the cavity-fighting quality of your saliva and reduces salivary flow, causing dry mouth which leads to halitosis and increased risk of decay
Is vaping as bad for my teeth as smoking?
The short answer is, probably. E-cigarettes provide smokers with nicotine doses without combustion of tobacco. Many vape liquids contain higher concentrations of nicotine than tobacco.
Nicotine vaping products became legal in Canada in 2018, and the legalization of cannabis vaping followed in 2019, so unfortunately the long-term effects of vaping on general and oral health are not yet known, but early evidences suggest that the risks of vaping liquids containing nicotine or cannabis on oral health may be similar to that of traditional tobacco products.
To chew or not to chew?
Chewing tobacco or smokeless tobacco is just as bad, possibly worse for your oral health than smoking it. It’s more irritating to the gums because it sits along the gum line, causing more staining and gum recession combined with all of the other risks associated with combustible tobacco.
How does cannabis affect teeth?
Cannabis contains many of the same carcinogens and associated risks as tobacco. Smoking or vaping cannabis increases the risk of developing gingivitis, periodontal disease, oral cancer and other infections. It also leads to xerostomia (dry mouth) and leukoplakias. Smoking cannabis also stains teeth in a similar way to smoking tobacco. Cannabis users tend to have an increased appetite for sweet snack foods, which increases the risk of gingivitis and cavity formation.
Herbal cigarettes and oral health
Although free of tobacco and free of nicotine, herbal cigarettes are not free of all risk. All smoking, whether it is cannabis, herbal cigarettes, cigars, or tobacco—produces carbon monoxide and tar, which increase your risk for cancer and threatens your oral health.
What about a water pipe?
Contrary to popular belief, smoking using a device such as a water pipe such as a hookah or a bong does little to reduce the risks of smoking.
Smoking cessation best practice: tips from Neesh dentists in Saskatoon
The best advice we can give to smokers who want to take care of their oral health is to get support to quit. If you are thinking about quitting, visit us for an online consultation or in-office appointment to get support services from a dental professional for smoking cessation!