Last week, the government published its independent Khan Review looking at all aspects of tobacco control. Part of it strongly urged the government to do more to promote vaping but this prompted the British Dental Association to kick back and suggest that “there have been recent suggestions linking disposable vapes to gum disease”.
The British Dental Association said: “epidemiological studies also highlight concerns over oral dryness, irritation, and gum diseases.”
Mick Armstrong, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Health and Science Committee said: “The risks of long-term oral and general health problems from e-cigarettes are frankly an unknown. With products that are so new, officials must keep an eye on emerging evidence, particularly given high uptake among young people.”
At the same time, The Times ran an unbalanced and misleading article titled “Elf bars and me: I am a vaping addict, so will I get gum disease?”
Referring to The Times article, it replied to its own question: “So far, it seems not.”
The IBVTA said: “In the piece, Georgina Roberts talks about using a disposable e-cigarette product. She claims just one of the devices contains roughly the same amount of nicotine as 45 cigarettes. The UK legal limits on these products are a maximum of 2 millilitres of liquid and 20 milligrams of nicotine per ml. That is 40mg of nicotine in total. Given the average nicotine content of a tobacco cigarettes is 10-12 mg, it is difficult to see how the journalist came up with her figure of 45 cigarettes. It is more like 4.
“She then appears to take health advice from unsubstantiated claims made by teenagers in social media videos, claiming that vaping is causing them gum disease. These claims are then repeated by a dentist who further opines that vaping might lead to tooth loss, among other issues.”
Professor Linda Bauld, Bruce and John Usher professor of public health at Edinburgh University has commented on the piece. She referred to it as a “good example of how not to write a health-related article and how not to consult anyone from the UK who has conducted research on the topic”. She added that it was “unusually poor from The Times’’. She went on to say that her experience of working with the media has been mostly excellent. However, “when as issue is so badly misrepresented and doesn’t take account of relevant research and clinical practice, we need to respond.”
The IBVTA points out that Dr Richard Holliday (a periodontology specialist) and Professor Elaine McColl (a professor of health service research) have written a letter to the editor of The Times in response to the poorly researched article.
In it, adds the IBVTA, they directly address the suggestion that vaping directly leads to gum disease. They quite rightly point out that the current scientific evidence does not support this view. They go on to say it is normal for smokers’ gums to bleed when they quit, and that switching from smoking to vaping is a great move for general and oral health.
“The scientific and public health community in this country were the first to draw attention to the harms of smoking. Shamefully, our media continually proliferate a smear on that same community. They lead the public to believe some scientists would now intentionally harm smokers by promoting a switch to vaping. This could not be further from the truth,” continues the IBVTA
“This is part of a recent resurgence of articles that demonstrate deeply insidious flaws in so much media coverage of vaping and e-cigarettes. It shows a lack of professionalism by misleading when the science is very clear. Worst of all is the blatant disregard for the authority with which every credible health organisation in the UK now backs vaping as a safer alternative to smoking.
“There seems to be an underpinned journalistic prejudice against vaping. These articles gain clicks and shares, certainly. However, they also create a ‘bad news’ story where there is none. It begs one question of the media: When is enough, enough?”
So, answering the original question ‘does vaping cause gum disease?’, we refer to the words of Dr Richard Holliday when he says: “Tobacco smoking is a major cause of oral diseases including Periodontal (Gum) disease. Smoke and not nicotine is responsible for these harms, although this often gets confused.
“Indeed, oral nicotine, such as gum, has been used without concern for decades. Nicotine use does not lead to gum disease. In the case of bleeding gums, it is normal for smokers to get this when they quit; if this happens those affected should see their dental team for a full examination.
“Finally, smokers who are thinking about switching to an e-cigarette should bear in mind that this is a great move for their general and oral health”
In short, no – vaping does not cause gum disease.