Written By Kevin Kerfoot / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
The potential for future disease from vaping lies just below the surface, says research published in the journal Science Advances. They say that because the collection of oral bacteria in daily e-cigarette users’ mouths is teeming with potent infection-causing organisms it puts vapers at substantial risk for ailments ranging from gum disease to cancer.
They reason that bacteria below the gums is the last line of defense against disease because it is the least likely to be disrupted by environmental changes in the mouth, such as food, toothpaste and tobacco.
The oral bacteria composition of the study’s participants resembled that of people with periodontitis, and the damaging effects were seen with or without nicotine. This led the scientists to believe that the heated and pressurized liquids in e-cigarette cartridges are likely the culprit in transforming a dangerous combination of microbes.
“Vaping is such a big assault on the oral environment, and the change happens dramatically and over a short period of time,” says Purnima Kumar, professor of periodontology at The Ohio State University and senior author of the study. “If you stop smoking and start vaping instead, you don’t move back toward a healthy bacterial profile but shift up to the vaping.”
“Knowing the vaping profile is pathogen-rich, you’re not doing yourself any favors by using vaping to quit smoking. To mimic a smoking effect, a glycerol-glycol combination holds the nicotine to your throat to give you that sensation of a nicotine hit, and it produces a giant vapor cloud. It’s a very essential component of vaping. I’m not saying nicotine is good for you, but even without the nicotine, vaping has a pretty large impact on the bacterial communities our bodies have regarded as friends.”
Damaging Oral Profiles Linked To Vaping
As for the belief that vaping reduces the harm caused by smoking, the study says that even longtime current and former cigarette smokers - whose tobacco habit would have given disease-causing microbes easier access to the mouth - had the more damaging oral profiles linked to vaping after only three to 12 months of e-cigarette use
The study’s most concerning characteristics were the levels of stress in the microbial community, which was detected by the activation of genes that contribute to the creation of a mucus-like slime layer surrounding bacterial communities.
The immune system is used to seeing assembled bacteria look like clearly defined communities, but in e-cigarette users, these communities cloaked in slime look like foreign invaders and trigger a destructive inflammatory response.
This change in the microbial landscape – accompanied by higher levels of proteins in vapers’ mouths that signaled the immune system was on standby to activate and produce inflammation – exponentially increases the likelihood for disease. A longer duration of the vapers’ habit, with or without the use of nicotine or flavoring agents, made the oral conditions more severe.
Vaping Changes Oral Microbiome, Increases Risk for Infection
Another recent study – published in iScience by researchers at NYU College of Dentistry – also confirms that using e-cigarettes alters the mouth’s microbiome - the community of bacteria and other microorganisms - and makes users more prone to inflammation and infection. It is the first study to demonstrate that vaping changes the oral microbiome and adds to our limited understanding of the safety profile of e-cigarettes.
Researchers examined e-cigarette vapor and its influence on the oral microbiome and immune health, and evaluated how vaping influences infection efficiency of oral pathogens in cell lines using a novel e-cigarette aerosol generating machine and measured pro-inflammatory immune mediators.
Through oral exams and saliva samples, the researchers studied the oral microbiome of 119 people from three groups: e-cigarette users, regular cigarette smokers, and those who had never smoked. Gum disease or infection was significantly higher among cigarette smokers, followed by e-cigarette users and non-smokers.
“Given the popularity of vaping, it is critical that we learn more about the effects of e-cigarette aerosols on the oral microbiome and host inflammatory responses in order to better understand the impact of vaping on human health,” says Xin Li, Ph.D., associate professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at NYU College of Dentistry and the study’s co-senior author. “The predominance of these periodontal pathogens in the mouths of e-cigarette users and traditional smokers is a reflection of compromised periodontal health.”
“The oral microbiome is of interest to us because research shows that changes in its microbial community as a result of environmental and host factors contribute to a range of health issues, including cavities, gum disease, halitosis, and medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers,” added Deepak Saxena, Ph.D., professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at NYU College of Dentistry and the study’s co-senior author. “Our study suggests that vaping electronic cigarettes causes shifts in the oral environment and highly influences the colonization of complex microbial biofilms, which raises the risk for oral inflammation and infection.”
Smoking Raises Risk Of Gum Disease
It is well established that smoking traditional cigarettes raises the risk of gum disease and infection by bringing about physiological and structural changes, fostering an environment in which certain infection-causing bacteria flourish and contribute to immune dysfunction.
The researchers found that the altered microbiome in e-cigarette users influenced the local host immune environment compared to non-smokers and cigarette smokers.
E-cigarette aerosols made cells prone to bacterial infection, which points to a greater risk for infection in e-cigarette users. E-cigarettes are thought to be less harmful than cigarettes, but little research exists on the safety of e-cigarettes. While vaping has quickly grown in popularity in recent years, a growing number of people are falling ill or dying from vaping-related illnesses.
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With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletters.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.