Electronic Cigarettes, usually referred to as e-cigs or “vapes,” have grown in popularity while being touted as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes.

The face-value assumption seems sound; if you’re not inhaling black smoke, it must be better for you. Some will also make the argument that e-cigs help people quit smoking traditional cigarettes, with the eventual goal of not ingesting nicotine at all.

While it’s true that the new devices can help you avoid the combustible material and many toxins in normal cigarettes, the liquid used in e-cigs contains a range of chemicals that can have their own negative effect on health.

At Schumacher & Bauer,  we understand that the ramifications are especially worrisome for your mouth, the first point of contact with the vapor. One of the biggest problems now is that there is very little research on what can happen to your oral health, but what does exist is troubling.

The liquid used in e-cigs is a propylene or polyethylene glycol–based solution with nicotine and other additives, vaporized into an aerosol mist by metal components within the device. The contents of this vapor can vary widely based on the flavoring agents added, and even the construction of the device itself.

While the FDA did institute regulations on the purchasing of e-cigarettes, bringing the industry in line with some of the age restrictions and labeling guidelines we’re used to seeing on traditional nicotine products, the full effects these chemical concoctions have is still not clear.

Fortunately, some research has begun to appear, but the results are worrisome. In the January 2016 edition of Oral Oncology, a study concluded that e-cig vapor, both with and without nicotine, is a DNA strand breaking agent, and urged that further research into the potential carcinogenic effects of e-cigarette vapor is urgently needed.

Last year, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) awarded seven research grants, totaling more than $2 million in support to fund a range of projects that examine the effects of this vapor. With further research, the Food and Drug Administration will be better equipped to expand regulatory authority on electronic cigarettes and fully educate the public on potential health concerns.

While the issue of electronic cigarettes has arguably been muddled by people suggesting the switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigs with the belief that they are better for you, in this case, better for you could still be very bad for your mouth.