Vaping may contribute to gum disease, study finds

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A new study from New York University College of Dentistry looked at how electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) impact oral health and may be contributing to gum disease.

The research, published in mBio, evaluated the effect of e-cigarette smoking and found that users have a unique oral microbiome that is less healthy than nonsmokers but potentially healthier than cigarette smokers.

To gather this data, researchers conducted a longitudinal clinical study on the bacterial community structure in the saliva of 101 periodontitis patients. They were divided into three groups: cigarette smokers, e-cigarette users, and people who have never smoked. Gum disease was evaluated 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.

According to the study, the results concluded that e-cigarette use altered the oral microbiome in periodontitis patients, enriching members of the Filifactor, Treponema, and Fusobacterium taxa. For patients at the same periodontal disease stage, cigarette smokers and e-cigarette smokers shared more similarities in their oral bacterial composition. E-cigarette smoking may be similar to cigarette smoking at altering the bacterial composition of saliva over time, leading to an increase in periodontal disease-associated pathogens such as Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum. 

In addition, the researchers found that the distinct microbiome in e-cigarette users was correlated with clinical measures of gum disease and changes to the host environment. Vaping was associated with different levels of cytokines. TNFα, a cytokine that causes inflammation, was significantly elevated among e-cigarette users.