The dangers of smoking are well established, from an increased risk of cancer to a range of oral health issues, including gingivitis and gum disease. But what about the alternatives to cigarettes that have become increasingly popular in recent years, such as vaping and nicotine pouches? Do they pose the same risk to your mouth that smoking does or are they truly a safer option?
Let’s take a look at the science to see just what happens when nicotine is introduced to your mouth and what that means for smokeless options like vaping and nicotine pouches.
Does nicotine cause gum disease?
In whatever form it is delivered, nicotine reduces the saliva production in your mouth and that can lead to a whole host of problems. Your mouth needs moisture in order to continually wash away the bacteria and plaque that build up on your teeth throughout the course of the day. When bacteria and plaque are allowed to collect, they can lead to cavities, tartar, and tooth decay.
What’s more, nicotine is a stimulant, which can affect your mouth in other ways. Stimulants can affect your jaw muscles, leading to clenching and grinding that wear down the teeth and cause damage to the soft tissues inside the mouth. This also causes serious oral health issues over time.
So, the short answer to the question is yes—nicotine causes gum disease, in more ways than one.
Can nicotine pouches cause gingivitis?
Since nicotine itself is not great for oral health, does that mean that all products that contain nicotine lead to issues like gingivitis? Users of nicotine pouches will want to know—do they cause gum disease?
When it comes to nicotine pouches (which are also known as snuff), the verdict hasn’t come in yet one way or the other. Some studies indicate that users of nicotine pouches have a noticeably increased gingival index, whereas other studies do not indicate any relationship between snuff use and gingivitis or gingival bleeding.
What we do know, however, is that nicotine lowers blood flow and oxygen levels, which prevents the gums from healing and repairing themselves, ultimately ending in cell death. The nicotine contained in pouches will have this same effect on your gum health, even if it is delivered in a smokeless fashion.
Does vaping cause gum disease?
You may be wondering if vaping has similar risks for your mouth health—after all, vaping doesn’t necessarily have to include nicotine. As it turns out, that doesn’t matter so much.
According to scientists, vaping certainly lays fertile ground for gum disease to develop. Studies show that regular vapers have an oral bacteria composition in their mouths that is similar to that of people who have periodontitis, which is a type of gum infection that can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
What’s worse is that these effects are not from the nicotine itself, since they were observed in cases with and without nicotine use. So the unfavorable bacterial makeup is likely an additional impact on top of the damaging effects of nicotine.
The element responsible for this is likely the heated and pressurized liquids that are used in vape cartridges. Inhaling these liquids is akin to assaulting the delicate equilibrium of the mouth and creates bacterial mayhem. What’s more, this effect doesn’t take long to develop. It can be measured in vape users after just three to twelve months of vaping.
Other oral health effects of nicotine pouches
Gum disease isn’t the only health impact that nicotine pouches can have on your mouth. Your entire mouth is susceptible to harmful outcomes, including:
● Cavities and tooth decay
● Dry mouth and throat irritation
● Halitosis (bad breath)
● Gum recession
● Chipped and broken teeth from clenching and grinding
Although these effects won’t make themselves known immediately, they can show up suddenly a couple of years down the road. Your age, the overall state of your health, and your pouch usage will all influence when and how different mouth conditions can develop.
What happens if you use nicotine pouches with gum disease?
Using nicotine pouches in the presence of gum disease is a bad idea. Nicotine accelerates the decay and degradation, making the issues much worse, much faster.
Gum disease also leaves your teeth and gums unprotected. Gum recession, which is a common symptom of gum disease, leaves the roots exposed, making cavities, tooth sensitivity, and wear and tear far more likely to occur. The roots of your teeth simply aren’t as sturdy as the crown, so any damage they sustain is serious.
The way that nicotine pouches rub up against the gums is also a problem for people with pre-existing gum disease. The sheer friction alone can cause irritation, which then builds on itself, creating ever more inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to worse and worse outcomes.
Tips to prevent gum issues while using nicotine pouches
The best thing you can do for the health of your gums if you’re a user of nicotine pouches is to quit the habit. If that is not something you wish to consider, then it’s important to keep an extra close eye on your teeth and gums and do everything you can to prevent issues from developing.
Here are some tips to prevent gum issues while using nicotine pouches:
● Rotate the locations where you place the pouch in your mouth to prevent it from always rubbing the same area.
● Limit the number of pouches you use in a day.
● Refrain from speaking or moving your mouth while using the patch to reduce potential friction against the gums.
● Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist and hydrated.
● Be rigorous with your dental hygiene routine, flossing at least 5 times a week and brushing twice daily.
● Let your doctor know about your nicotine usage so they can monitor your health and provide targeted advice.
Check your mouth regularly
Once a month or so, take a good look in your mouth. Use a light and a mirror to get a clear view of your oral tissues, with an eye to detecting lesions. If you notice any lesion that doesn’t resolve on its own within a couple of weeks or if it looks suspicious, it’s best to book a dental appointment as soon as possible to get it checked out. In the meantime, write down when you first noticed the lesion and what it looked like. This will be important information for your dentist to have in monitoring and diagnosing it.
You should also be aware, though, that many of the negative effects of pouches use happen at a level that can’t be seen with the naked eye. It’s entirely possible for your gums to look fine at a glance but to be harboring dangerous bacteria below the gum line.
The bottom line on nicotine and your mouth
Vape and nicotine pouches are not cigarettes, but they may as well be for the potential damage they can do to your oral health. Users of these smokeless nicotine products have much higher odds of developing gum disease compared to people who have never used them.
Your mouth is a delicate ecosystem, and nicotine is disruptive to that environment, regardless of the form it comes in. The best way to protect the health of your teeth and gums is to avoid nicotine altogether.