Keeping a healthy, bright smile is important to our sense of self-worth, image and well-being, so if you’re a vaper, knowing how your habit might affect your teeth is likely to be of interest.
So to help you understand the implications of vaping with regard to maintaining high levels of oral hygiene, in this post, we consider the question, can dentists tell if you vape?
What does vaping do to your teeth, gums and mouth?
Before we look at whether a dentist can tell if you vape just from inspecting your mouth, let’s talk about some of the potential effects vaping can have so we know what a dentist might be looking for.
Many people use vapes as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, and vapes don’t contain the panoply of harmful and often carcinogenic chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke.
However, one thing many vapes do contain is nicotine, and this can affect your oral health in several ways.
One of the most obvious of these is that when combined with saliva, nicotine can cause yellow or brown stains, which will build up over time if you vape often.
The stains can be difficult to remove once they’re there – and doing so may end up costing you a lot of money.
At the same time, these stains will be obvious to a dentist when they look in your mouth, and this could be a tell-tale sign for the dentist that you are a vaper.
2. Gum inflammation
As well as causing stains on your teeth, nicotine also acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means it causes the blood vessels to tighten while also reducing the amount of oxygen your blood is able to carry.
The result of this is that less oxygenated blood is able to reach your gums, and this may lead to conditions such as gum inflammation.
When left unchecked, this can result in other conditions such as gum disease or receding gums, and this is something else that your dentist will notice immediately.
However, your dentist might not be able to attribute this to vaping specifically if you don’t tell them you vape.
3. Dry mouth
The nicotine in vapes causes your mouth to dry out, but here, nicotine is not the only ingredient of vape juice that’s to blame.
Another major component of vape juice is propylene glycol (PG), and it is used in almost all commercial vape juices to carry the flavorings as well as to create the distinctive throat hit that many vapers find desirable.
Like nicotine, PG also causes your mouth to dry out, and this can lead to several other issues.
For example, if you have a dry mouth, you are more likely to have bad breath.
In addition, the saliva in your mouth is used to help keep your mouth clean and free of food particles, bacteria and acids.
This means if you have less saliva in your mouth, your teeth will also be more prone to attack from bacteria and acids, and this in turn may lead to cavities, gum disease and other issues.
However, unless you have been vaping just before you see your dentist, they might not be able to pinpoint the cause of these secondary issues since you might not have a dry mouth when you take your place in the dentist’s chair.
4. Tooth decay
Vaping can potentially increase your chances of suffering from tooth decay in other ways too.
Vegetable glycerin (VG), another component of vape juice, along with the flavorings used in the juice can help bacteria stick to your teeth, giving the bacteria more chance to attack your teeth.
As ever, your dentist might not be able to attribute the symptoms to vaping, but they are likely to notice that something is wrong, even if they can’t be certain of why if you choose not to tell them.
5. Tissue irritation
Finally, vaping can also cause tissue irritation, which may then develop into sores and ulcers, something else that a dentist will notice during your checkup.
Can Dentists Tell if You Vape?
So when you go to see your dentist, will they know you’ve been vaping the moment you open your mouth? Well, not exactly.
If you are only an infrequent vaper, there are likely to be few clues to give away your habit.
There is unlikely to be any significant staining, and the other issues associated with vaping might be minor or non-existent.
However, if you are a more frequent vaper, perhaps somebody who vapes several times every day, the signs will be easier to read.
The nicotine stains will give your dentist a clear idea about your vaping habit, and some of the other indications may suggest that you are a vaper, even if they don’t amount to undeniable evidence.
In such a case, your dentist is likely to suspect that you are a vaper, and they may ask you about it, but depending on how often and how much you vape, the evidence may be hard to spot.
How does vaping compare to smoking cigarettes?
As we mentioned above, many people turn to vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking, but how do the two compare when it comes to oral health?
Generally speaking, although vaping is not completely free of risk, and although it is still harmful to your oral health, it is still much better than smoking.
Cigarettes cause much worse stains much more quickly, and all of the other negative effects are at least as bad if not worse in comparison with vaping.
Furthermore, cigarettes contain a plethora of other harmful chemicals that are not present in vapes and can even lead to oral cancer.
This means if you are a smoker and want to give up for reasons of oral hygiene or overall health, switching to vapes can be an effective solution to consider.
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Can a dentist tell if your teen is vaping?
Another question you might be interested in if you’re a parent is whether a dentist can help you work out if your teen has started vaping.
Although vapes are an excellent tool for helping people quit smoking, providing a healthier alternative to tobacco, they are also increasingly falling into the hands of minors who are then becoming addicted to nicotine from an early age.
Vapes are not safe for children, and it’s understandable for parents to want to know if their children are experimenting with vaping – and it’s possible that your dentist can help you.
In short, a dentist can look out for all of the tell-tale signs we’ve already mentioned and may be able to tell you if they suspect your child is vaping.
At the same time, it may also depend on how much your child vapes since if they only vape occasionally, there will be little evidence in their mouth to alert you to the fact.
Can a dentist tell if you vape marijuana?
The answer to this question is no, they can’t. Marijuana vapes don’t usually contain nicotine, so if you – or your child – only vapes marijuana products, there will be none of the distinctive yellow-brown staining on the teeth.
Having said that, vaping marijuana can cause dry mouth just like vaping regular juice, and this can still lead to all the problems related to this that we’ve already discussed.
However, a dentist will not be able to tell that any dental issues you or your child are experiencing are due to dry mouth caused by vaping marijuana products since there will be nothing visible that specifically points to this conclusion.
How can you reduce the impact of vaping on your oral health?
It should now be obvious that, while vaping is much better for you than smoking tobacco cigarettes, it can still cause certain problems with your teeth and mouth – so how can you minimize these effects?
Since many of the problems are related to nicotine, one solution is to reduce the nicotine content in the juices you vape – or better still, switch to nicotine-free vapes.
However, all vapes still contain PG, which can dry out your mouth. This means drinking plenty of water to avoid dry mouth can also help reduce dental issues caused by vaping.
Finally, following dental hygiene best practices such as brushing at least twice daily, flossing, having regular checkups and booking twice-yearly hygienist appointments will all help minimize the negative effects vaping might have on your pearly-white smile.
Some effects – but they can be mitigated
As we’ve seen, although vaping is not entirely harmless, it’s still a lot better for your teeth and your overall health than smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Furthermore, although you can’t totally eliminate all of the risks or negative effects on your dental health from vaping, you can still do a lot to mitigate the damage, even to the point where your dentist might not be able to tell you’re a vaper at all.