E-cigarettes are growing in popularity, especially among teenagers. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 3 million middle and high school students actively used them in 2015. Yet the long-term dangers of e-cigarettes—which emit formaldehyde, lead, nitrosamines, and propylene glycol—are still relatively unknown.
Hoping to unlock these mysteries, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) has awarded a pair of professors at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry one of 7 available grants to study the biological and physiological effects of e-cigarette aerosol mixtures on oral health.
The initial host interaction of these aerosol mixtures occurs largely in the oral cavity, where exposure to aerosolized nicotine and other components is the highest. Preliminary research indicates that these aerosol mixtures disrupt the oral cavity’s microenvironment and increases vulnerability to periodontal disease.
“Smoking is a major risk factor for periodontal disease, immunosuppression, and impairment of soft-tissue and bone cell function,” said Xin Li, PhD, one of NYU’s recipients of the 4-year, $1.6-million grant.
The prospective study will comprise 40 nonsmokers, 40 subjects who regularly smoke cigarettes but do not use e-cigarettes, and 40 subjects who exclusively use e-cigarettes. The e-cigarette users will be stratified by the type of disposable e-cigarette and how many cartridges they consume each week.
The researchers will collect saliva and subgingival plaque samples at baseline and at 6 months. After the second collection, the samples will be compared to determine if there has been any dysbiosis in the oral microbiome. Oral exams will be performed at both visits as well.
“To determine the mechanism by which e-cigarette aerosol affects oral health, we will design a novel 3-D epigingival tissue model to mimic the oral microenvironment,” said Li.
“This study will be the first to determine the adverse health effects of e-cigarette use on oral health,” said Deepak Saxena, MS, PhD, the other grant recipient. “The outcomes will aid the National Institutes of Health and NIDCR in evaluating the oral health risk and the regulation of e-cigarettes.”