eCigarettes or “vaping” has become a popular alternative to cigarettes. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of illness and death in the US. Inhalation of tar and other toxic chemicals is linked to cancer and heart disease, as well as many other health issues.

Enter eCigarettes, electronic, battery-operated devices that simulate the act of smoking and delivers nicotine without less of the toxic chemicals left by burning tobacco leaves. But, are eCigarettes really a safe alternative to that pack of Marlboro Lites?

eCigarettes deliver nicotine in an aerosol or vaporized form. The vapor in some eCigarettes has been found to contain carcinogens and toxins such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, as well as toxic metal nanoparticles from the mechanism. The vapor in eCigarettes is essentially created from a solution of nicotine, distilled water, and flavorings.

Nicotine, the active ingredient in cigarettes, is a highly addictive substance that may impact dental health. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it restricts blood flow. When people “vape,” the vapor constricts blood flow to the gum tissue, which can lead to unhealthy gums. In addition, eCigarettes cause a reduction in saliva or “dry mouth,” which can increase risk for gingivitis, tooth decay, and mouth infections.

Though eCigarettes contain nicotine from tobacco, they aren’t yet subject to age restrictions in some areas. Some states have banned sales to minors but minors are able to purchase online or in mall kiosks. The cartridges are available in flavors like cookies and cream milkshake or cherry, which appeal to adolescents.

Are eCigarettes a safe alternative to smoking? There isn’t enough evidence to support the safety of eCigarettes and the exposure to nicotine via the oral cavity may pose risks to dental health.