In laboratory experiments, researchers at the University of Rochester in New York exposed nonsmokers’ gum tissue to e-cigarette vapors.
Their findings appear to counter arguments that the battery-operated devices are a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking.
“We showed that when the vapors from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins,” said study leader Irfan Rahman. These, in turn, “aggravate stress within cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases,” explained Rahman, a professor of environmental medicine in the School of Medicine and Dentistry.
“How much and how often someone is smoking e-cigarettes will determine the extent of damage to the gums and oral cavity,” Rahman added in a university news release.
The researchers also found that the flavoring chemicals used in e-cigarettes play a role in damaging cells in the mouth.
“We learned that the flavorings — some more than others — made the damage to the cells even worse,” said study co-author Fawad Javed.
“It’s important to remember that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is known to contribute to gum disease,” added Javed, a postdoctoral resident at the university’s Institute for Oral Health.
More research, including long-term and comparative studies, are needed to better understand the health effects of e-cigarettes, said Rahman. He urged manufacturers to disclose all the materials and chemicals used in e-cigarettes to help consumers understand the potential dangers.
The study results were published recently in the journal Oncotarget.