. Smoking cigarettes is a known risk factor for developing gum disease, but less is known about the impact of e-cigarettes.
To know this, researchers studied the oral health of 84 adults from three groups: cigarette smokers, e-cigarette users, and people who have never smoked.
Gum disease was assessed through two dental exams six months apart, during which plaque samples were taken to analyze the bacteria present.
All participants had some gum disease at the start of the study, with cigarette smokers having the most severe disease, followed by e-cigarette users. After six months, the researchers observed that gum disease had worsened in some participants in each group, including several e-cigarette users.
A key indicator of gum disease is clinical attachment loss, measured by gum ligament and tissue separating from a tooth’s surface, leading the gum to recede and form pockets. These pockets are breeding grounds for bacteria and can lead to more severe gum disease.
Later, they analyzed the bacteria found in the plaque samples and determined that e-cigarette users have a different oral microbiome from smokers and nonsmokers.
Several types of bacteria, including Selenomonas, Leptotrichia, and Saccharibacteria, were abundant in both smokers and vapers compared to nonsmokers. Several other bacteriaincluding Fusobacterium and Bacteroidales, which are known to be associated with gum diseasewere particularly dominant in the mouths of e-cigarette users.
When plaque samples were gathered and analyzed in the six-month follow-up, the researchers found greater diversity in bacteria for all groups studied, yet each group maintained its own distinct microbiome.
Researchers concluded that the distinct oral microbiome of e-cigarette users elicits altered immune responses, which along with clinical markers for gum disease illustrate how vaping presents its challenge to oral health.
E-cigarette use is a relatively new human habit. Unlike smoking, which has been studied extensively for decades, we know little about the health consequences of e-cigarette use and are just starting to understand how the unique microbiome promoted by vaping impacts oral health and disease.