In a scientific study that looks at the effect of e-cigarettes on cellular and molecular levels, a team of researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center, USA, found that electronic cigarettes are as damaging to gums and teeth as conventional cigarettes. In their study, published this week in the journal Oncotarget, the team exposed 3D human, non-smoker gum tissue to the vapors of e-cigarettes.
They found that when the vapors from the e-cigarette burned, the cells in the tissue released inflammatory proteins which aggravated stress within cells. This stress can potentially damage the cells, which could then lead to various oral diseases. “How much and how often someone is smoking e-cigarettes will determine the extent of damage to the gums and oral cavity,” said lead author Irfan Rahman commenting on the results.
The team also found that the flavoring chemicals used in e-cigarettes can also damage cells in the mouth, with some making the damage to the cells even worse, with co-author Fawad Javed adding, “It’s important to remember that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is known to contribute to gum disease.”
In another study released this week, published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology, a team from Université Laval, Canada, found that a large number of mouth cells died within days of been exposed to e-cigarette vapor in the laboratory. The researchers exposed gingival epithelial cells (from gum tissue), which are the body’s first line of defense against microbial infection, to e-cigarette vapor.
To simulate what happens in a person’s mouth while vaping, the cells were placed in a small chamber containing a saliva-like liquid. The team saw that the percentage of dead or dying cells, which is about 2% in unexposed cell cultures, increased to 18%, 40%, and 53% after 1, 2, and 3 days of exposure to e-cigarette vapor, respectively.
Although the long-term effects have not yet been researched, lead researcher Dr. Mahmoud Rouabhia did warn that, “Damage to the defensive barrier in the mouth can increase the risk of infection, inflammation, and gum disease. Over the longer term, it may also increase the risk of cancer. This is what we will be investigating in the future.”