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Dentists can take lead, action in responding to vaping spike

Practioners can share health risks, offer guidance

June 15, 2020

By David Burger

Graphic of vaping, chewing, smokingIt can start with a simple, straightforward question: Do you vape or use e-cigarettes?

In an effort to help patients improve their oral and overall health, dentists should proactively broach the topic of vaping, according to Dr. Andrew Welles, a new dentist member of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention.

“Dentists can help smokers quit by consistently identifying patients who smoke or vape and offering them information about cessation treatment,” said Dr. Welles, a 2015 graduate of the Marquette University School of Dentistry.

When it comes to broaching this topic, he said, practitioners can take note from an evidence-based story, “Living Under a Cloud,” published in the March 2020 edition of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

The story outlines how to approach patients who have a variety of reasons for vaping.

“For those choosing to vape without a history of tobacco use, sharing the insight that e-cigarette use is not without risks is highly recommended,” according to the story authored by Drs. Marcelo W.B. Araujo, Purnima Kumar and Maria Geisinger, along with Hillary R. DeLong, J.D., and Ruth Lipman, Ph.D..

Photo of Dr. Welles
Dr. Welles
“For patients who report using vaping as a means to reduce or eliminate their cigarette consumption, providing guidance and information about standard tobacco cessation strategies, including nicotine replacement approaches such as patches and gum, and follow-up with their primary health care provider about medication, behavioral counseling or both, may be appropriate,” the authors added.

In addition, for ex-cigarette smokers who use e-cigarettes, [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance indicates that reverting to conventional cigarettes is not recommended and that efforts to reduce or quit e-cigarette use are suggested.”

Dr. Welles said that while the oral health effects of vaping are not yet fully studied, there is some evidence that vaping increases the likelihood that tobacco users will not be able to quit.

“There have also been anecdotal reports of orofacial damage when these devices have suddenly overheated, sometimes to the point of exploding,” he said. “Because of the oral health implications of tobacco use and vaping, dental practices may provide a uniquely effective setting for recognition, prevention, and cessation.”

The ADA is working with dentists, educators, public health officials, lawmakers and the public to prevent and, hopefully, eliminate the use of all tobacco products.

On Dec. 16, the Association adopted a new interim policy on vaping. The interim policy called for a total ban on all vaping products that aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration for tobacco cessation purposes. The Council on Advocacy for Access helped develop the interim ADA policy in vaping, along with the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs and ADA Council on Government Affairs.

In addition to the interim policy, the ADA House of Delegates in September 2019 passed a resolution stipulating that the word “vaping” and any other alternative nicotine delivery systems be added to the existing ADA policy focused on tobacco use prevention, research and regulation.

According to the story published in JADA, “Dental practitioners can expect to treat people using e-cigarettes and to have forward-facing roles in educating patients about the health consequences of this behavior.

“Inquiry about whether patients vape and their reasons for doing so could allow for initiation and reinforcement of cessation efforts,” the authors said.

For more information about the ADA’s advocacy efforts around vaping and tobacco products, visit ADA.org/tobacco.