Growing Up Smarter

Author: Dr. David Dickerhoff, DDS, MAGD, FOCOI

I have seen enough years in this world to appreciate that trends change and being a lifelong student is important in adapting to society’s latest changes and challenges.  My parents grew up at a time when the dangers of smoking were not as well known and smoked a pack a day. I grew up at a time where my parents put a high premium on their children not being cigarette smokers. I have watched the decline in cigarette smoking among Americans and have attempted to run a progressive tobacco cessation program within our practice.  According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of smoking among Americans in 2017 is 14%, the lowest rate in many decades.  A reason to celebrate, no? Unfortunately, nicotine use has skyrocketed among our youth and has reared its ugly head in the form of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).

ENDS are tobacco products and common brand names for these products are Njoy (Njoy, LLC), Juul (Juul Labs) and Blu (Imperial Brands).  According to an article in the July/August 2019 of General Dentistry, “In 2015, 29.8% of adult ENDS users were former cigarette smokers, 58,8% were current smokers (using both) and 11.4% had never been regular cigarette smokers. Thus, there is no decrease in tobacco use; on the contrary, these numbers represent an explosion of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable ‘vaping’ teens, which currently represent 1% of the population.”

Marketing has led many to believe that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking, which is not based on fact.  The active ingredients in vaping smoke include nicotine, formaldehyde, diacetyl, acrolein, and heavy metals from the battery in the device.  Nicotine is a potent vasoconstrictor which decreases the amount of blood flow to some of the most sensitive tissues within the body, which include the gums in the mouth.  My observations in treating my smoking population during my dental career are that they are delayed healers that have many more complications to healing than do my non-smoking patients.  Nicotine use puts them at an increased risk for periodontal disease which is a loss of attachment around teeth and subsequent bone loss.  Recovery rooms stays are 20% longer for smokers than non-smokers and smoking retards wound healing.

Vaping vapor is detrimental to the health of the user and the vaping cloud is detrimental to those who are exposed to the exhaled gases. So why are our youth using this product in increasing numbers?  Remember when you were a teenager?

The novelty is appealing and the marketing of a safe alternative to smoking is getting our youth ‘hooked’ as nicotine is an adductive chemical.  Educating our youth on the dangers is essential.  Assisting them on getting them unaddicted is a challenge.  But as a parent, my hope is that education is the key.  Our practice is always available to talk openly with our patients who want to pursue a nicotine free life style.  Open that conversation with us today.