Nicotine Continues to Threaten the Oral Health of US Teens

Each day in the U.S., more than 3,200 people younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 2,100 youth and young adults who have been occasional smokers become daily cigarette smokers. That is a staggering amount of young people that become new smokers each year. Tobacco has zero health benefits, and can be deadly in numerous ways. With the social stigma growing toward traditional cigarettes, many young smokers are turning to non-traditional tobacco ingestion methods, which are just as harmful. Let’s look at the effect tobacco has on teeth, and how products like e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco can damage teeth and overall health.


E-cigarettes are available in a number of flavors, which makes them very appealing to kids. This is due to the lack of regulations governing the production and marketing of electronic cigarettes. By comparison, traditional cigarettes have been blocked from producing flavors that appeal to children. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry , electronic cigarette use doubled among middle and high school students between 2011 – 2012.

The problem with e-cigarettes is that they serve as an entry point for using nicotine, the addictive drug found in cigarettes and other tobacco products. A new study recently concluded that teens who had used e-cigarettes and vaping devices were far more likely than their peers to try regular cigarettes over the next year.

In 2013, the Center for Disease Control reported that 1.78 million students in middle and high school reported trying e-cigarettes, and that their main reason was to be socially accepted and appear cool.

Chewing Tobacco

According to the AAPD, 13.4% of male high school students and 2.3% of female students use smokeless tobacco, or chewing tobacco. Smokeless tobacco can lead to periodontal disease, oral cancer, cavities, and tooth abrasion. It can cause bone degradation and increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. The Center for Disease Control also reports that smokeless tobacco use has steadily risen in the United States since 2000.

While chewing tobacco may not lead to some of the cancers associated with cigarette use, it does increase the risk for other cancers, and can cause significant oral damage and disease. Chewing tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes, and you should actively discourage your children from using it.

Help Prevent Your Kids from Using Nicotine

Tobacco and nicotine use can result in oral disease, cancer, a reduction in the ability to smell and taste, and compromise how wounds heal – and this is just a short list of the diseases associated to tobacco.

90% of adult smokers began smoking as teens, and e-cigarettes can be a slippery slope into regular tobacco use during adulthood. You can help your child avoid tobacco use by discussing the dangers of nicotine, and how e-cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction and smoking traditional cigarettes. Most studies find that teens that are actively discouraged from smoking, or that live in an environment where smoking is not normalized, are less likely to use tobacco as an adult. Be a role model for your child, and don’t use tobacco or products with nicotine when they are around.

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