Study shows negative effect of e-cigarettes on periodontal health

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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A recent study has found that e-cigarette vapours may be as harmful to periodontal health as traditional cigarette smoke. The study, conducted by researchers at Université Laval in Quebec, Canada, involved an in vitro experiment whereby gingival epithelial cells were exposed to e-cigarette vapour in order to chart the effects.

The negative effects of smoking traditional cigarettes have been well documented. Cigarette smoke has been linked to a number of diseases including cancer and bronchitis, as well as periodontal disease. Electronic cigarettes have been widely adopted by people who see them as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes. This is because no combustion occurs while smoking, which eliminates the inhalation of harmful compounds such as tar and carbon monoxide. This study found the perception that they are healthier to be far from the reality.

For the experiment, researchers gathered gingival epithelial cells from the tissue of healthy non-smokers aged 18–¬25. These cells were placed in a saliva-like liquid inside a custom-made smoke chamber. The cells were then exposed to e-cigarette vapour for 15 minutes a day in short bursts designed to mimic inhalations.

When these cells were compared with the control sample, which had not been exposed to e-cigarette vapour, there was a stark contrast. The percentage of dead or dying cells was around 2% in the unexposed sample, whereas it was a remarkable 53% in the cells which had undergone three days of exposure.

The authors suggested that this was due to the chemicals found in e-cigarette vapour. E-cigarettes work by vaporising a liquid solution which typically contains glycerol, propylene glycol, nicotine and other flavourings. Studies have shown that after this solution is heated and turned into vapour it contains trace amounts of carcinogens and heavy metals, with a certain amount being converted into chemicals including formaldehyde.

Continued exposure to traditional cigarette smoke can be a significant factor in tooth loss, and these findings suggest that electronic cigarettes also have potentially serious consequences for oral health, though further long-term research is required. This study was first published online on Nov. 3 in the Journal of Cellular Physiology.