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Can Dentists Tell if Your Teen Vapes? The Answer May Surprise You

We all know that smoking stains teeth. But what about vaping nicotine and marijuana products — does that leave telltale signs on teeth, too? Can dentists tell if you vape? How do dentists know if you vape? If you’re wondering if vaping affects teeth and whether your teen’s dentist can tell you if your teen vapes, read on to find out.


Can dentists know if your teen vapes e-cigarettes just by looking in their mouth?

vaping and teeth, teenage boy holding a smart phone in front of his face

Yup! A dentist will know if your teen vapes because nicotine smoked in any form negatively impacts oral health, specifically teeth and gums.

Although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they still contain highly concentrated amounts of nicotine, which can damage the mouth. This damage is visible and noticeable to dentists. How much nicotine is in e-cigs? Just one e-cigarette typically delivers the same amount of nicotine as two to three packs of regular cigarettes.

Does vaping affect your teeth? Your teen’s dentist (and hygienist and orthodontist) will suspect vaping when they see yellow or brown stains on your teen’s teeth because nicotine creates yellow or brown stains on teeth when it mixes with saliva. Those stains can be difficult (and expensive!) to remove and may eventually damage tooth enamel.

Nicotine can also damage gum tissue, cause gum disease and infections, create periodontal pockets, cause tooth loss, and contribute to bone loss.

Signs of Vaping

When you visit the dentist, there are various signs that tell them you vape. Some of the most common signs that tell your dentist that you vape are the following:

  • Dry Mouth: Vaping can cause dry mouth due to the presence of propylene glycol in the vapes. A dry mouth is more prone to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
  • Gum Inflammation and Recession: Vaping can lead to gum inflammation and recession. This is often characterized by red, swollen, or bleeding gums. This will be immediately noticeable to your dentist
  • Tooth Staining: Vaping can cause teeth staining and discoloration, similar to the effects of smoking cigarettes. If your teeth look slightly yellow, your dentist could be suspicious that you vape.
  • Oral Lesions or Sores: Vaping can cause increased occurrence of mouth sores or lesions, possibly due to the irritation caused by the chemicals in vape fluids.
  • Throat Irritation: Vaping can cause irritation in the throat, which might be noticeable to the dentist during an oral exam.

Will a dentist know if your teen vapes weed?

Probably not, unless, of course, your teen shows up to their dental appointment high. Vaping weed doesn’t have the same effect as smoking nicotine on dental health. Weed does not stain teeth in the same way that nicotine does, so it is unlikely that a dentist will be able to tell.

Dry mouth may be an issue, but it will be difficult for your dentist to pinpoint vaping marijuana as the sole cause for that condition.

Does Vaping Frequency Matter?

The more your teen vapes, the more damage they cause to their oral health and the more obvious it will be to a dentist that the patient vapes.

Can dentists tell if you smoke only sometimes?

Probably not. Unless your teen smokes here and there over a long period and the dental effects of regular smoking have surfaced, it’s unlikely that the dentist will identify the signs of your teen’s infrequent smoking habits. Then again, if your teen doesn’t maintain good oral hygiene, the effects of vaping will be more noticeable.

Can dentists tell if you vape once?

No. A dentist will not know if your teen tried vaping once, especially if they didn’t do it on the day of their appointment. Vaping one time won’t stain your teens teeth yellow or have affect your teen’s oral health.

Is it possible to hide that you vape from your dentist?

Sure, to an extent, especially if they practice good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing twice a day can minimize tooth decay and stains and breath fresheners can hide bad breath.

What will the dentist do if they think your teen vapes?

Two teenagers vaping outside and damaging their dental health and teeth

  1. Oral Health Treatment: The dentist will first conduct a thorough oral examination. If they find any issues related to vaping, such as gum inflammation, tooth decay, or oral lesions, they will provide the necessary treatment or recommend further care.
  2. Open and Non-Judgmental Discussion: Dentists often initiate a conversation about the use of vaping products in a non-judgmental and open manner. They might ask about the teenager’s vaping habits to understand the frequency and type of products used.
  3. Education About Risks: The dentist will educate the teenager about the health risks of vaping. This includes discussing the potential for gum disease, tooth decay, oral cancer, and the impact on overall health.
  4. Advice on Quitting: If the teenager is open to it, the dentist might offer advice on quitting vaping. This could include providing resources, suggesting strategies to stop, or referring them to a program or healthcare provider specializing in helping teenagers quit smoking and vaping.
  5. Parental Involvement: Depending on the circumstances and the age of the teenager, the dentist might suggest involving the parents in the conversation. However, they will also be mindful of the teenager’s privacy and confidentiality rights.
  6. Follow-Up Appointments: The dentist may schedule follow-up appointments to monitor the teenager’s oral health and offer additional support or treatment if needed.
  7. Referral to Other Healthcare Professionals: In some cases, the dentist might refer the teenager to other healthcare professionals, such as a physician or a counselor, for additional support.

How does Nicotine Impact Gums?

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that is found in vapes such as juuls.  Most teenagers are not aware of the effect that nicotine can have on their mouth. These are some of the ways that nicotine impacts your gums after excessive vaping:

  1. Reduced Blood Flow: Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to the gums. This can weaken the gums and other oral tissues, making them more susceptible to infections and diseases.
  2. Gum Disease: Regular exposure to nicotine increases the risk of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. This is a serious condition where the gums become inflamed and infected, potentially leading to tooth loss if untreated.
  3. Impaired Healing: Nicotine impairs the body’s natural healing processes. This can make recovery from oral surgeries or injuries slower, and can also make the gums less responsive to treatment for gum disease.
  4. Masking Symptoms: Nicotine can mask the symptoms of gum disease, like bleeding gums. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment, allowing the disease to progress further.
  5. Receding Gums: Chronic use of nicotine products can lead to gum recession, where the gums pull away from the teeth, exposing more of the tooth and its root. This can lead to sensitivity, decay, and tooth loss.
  6. Oral Cancer Risk: While not directly related to the gums, nicotine use increases the risk of oral cancers, which can affect the gums, lips, tongue, and throat.

How can you protect your teen’s oral health if you suspect (or know) they vape?

First, it’s essential to get your teen to practice good oral hygiene, which includes brushing and flossing twice a day and frequent self-examination of their teeth, gums, tongue, and the inside of their mouth. If your teen notices pain, discomfort, sores, or discoloration, they should tell you so you can address it.

Second, make sure they have a dental checkup and cleaning every six months; more frequently, if there’s a problem.

Third, share the following vaping facts with your teen. The best way to protect your teen’s oral health is to stop them from vaping.

Vaping Facts for Teens.

Results from the 2022 Annual National Youth Tobacco Survey show that 1 in 10 high school and middle school students vape e-cigarettes. That’s over 2.5 million teens! And out of those teens, 1 in 4 vape daily.

Given those numbers, don’t wait or ignore having a conversation about vaping with your teen. It’s vitally important that our teens know the risks of vaping! A good place to start is by sharing these three big facts about vaping with your teen.

  1. Vaping can be more addictive than smoking traditional cigarettes, and many times more difficult to stop.
  2. The nicotine in just one vape is so concentrated, it’s equivalent to smoking 2 to 3 packs of cigarettes.
  3. Vape manufacturers purposefully target teens by creating vapes that taste like candy and smell like fruit because they want to get teens hooked on their product.

More information about vaping.

We have lots more information about vaping and how you can safeguard your teen’s health.

VIDEOS TO WATCH:
Why We Need to Tackle the Teen Vaping Crisis
Vaping: Do we know all there is to know? What’s next?
Helping Teens Quit Vaping with Dr. Thomas Ylioja

ARTICLES TO READ:
Vaping Damage: Can Vaping Damage Your Teen’s Mouth?
A New Study Finds Parents Can Help Prevent Vaping
Confusion and Fear: Finding More Information about Vaping

And remember to talk about it with your teen!

Your Teen for Parents: The Truth About Teens and Vaping Workshop

Melissa Fischler Hed is a freelance writer and the Managing Digital Editor at Your Teen Media. Based in Massachusetts, she’s the mom of two daughters. Read more about her at MelissaHed.com

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