The internet was abuzz over the weekend with discussion of a study released in the journal Pediatrics, conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which found vaping was associated with a variety of unpleasant outcomes for teeth.
According to the report, among middle and high school students who reported they had tried vaping — or electric vaping devices, often called e-cigarettes — there was an increased risk of gum disease and licit decay in both adult and adolescent oral cavity.
In the study, researchers administered teeth-wiping tests, and found that teens with at least one vaping habit had significantly more decay than teens who did not use any e-cigarettes.
For adults, nicotine seemed to be more directly linked to gum disease. And for high schoolers, vaping appeared to affect the amount of time spent chewing. It also appeared to have a “painful” effect, according to the study.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Though none of the researchers at Johns Hopkins agreed to be interviewed for this story, perhaps unsurprisingly, the organization’s leadership was quick to stress the study had no scientific basis and urged patients to avoid tobacco and vaping in favor of oral health.
“Most people would not vape because it causes pain,” Ted Samuels, a professor of pediatrics and science communication at Johns Hopkins, told The Washington Post.
But he noted that vaping also remained a “subjective” choice for teens. And that, perhaps, remains a problem with regard to the study, according to Dr. Ana Steinmann, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
“We need to ask young people if their choices are motivated by rational thinking and based on values, or if their motives are addictive,” she told The New York Times.
Ms. Steinmann highlighted that outside of E-cigarettes, most people at higher risk for gum disease and dental caries, including some people with diabetes, simply chew tobacco.
“We need to break the direct correlation between tobacco and oral health, because smoke cigarettes,” she told The New York Times.
The Electronic Cigarette Association issued a statement in response to the study, highlighting the differences between the composition of cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The group argued that e-cigarettes are actually a non-addictive way to help people quit smoking cigarettes and “deliver a simple, real health benefit, of preventing childhood obesity.”
Dr. Robert Brink, the chairman of the Tobacco Control Research Group at Duke University School of Medicine and a leader of the CIGRA Study Coalition, an independent panel of tobacco experts, acknowledged that the study had no scientific basis, but also suggested that perhaps the study’s authors lacked access to positive information on vaping.
“While some may continue to suggest that e-cigarettes cause an all-out war on ‘the young,’ the statistical association of e-cigarette use with increased tooth decay and gum disease is not surprising,” Dr. Brink said. “Vape products do cause adverse health outcomes as determined by studies done since the products were first introduced.”
But Dr. Brink added that, in certain cases, he would not discourage someone from using the products if he or she had decided to quit using traditional tobacco cigarettes, especially if that smoker already had at least one serious ailment that required daily medication.