WARNING: This product contains nicotine.
Nicotine is an addictive chemical.

WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.

Dental Dilemma: Can Dentists Tell If You Vape?

In recent years, vaping has been marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. The general consensus is that vaping is far healthier, but this does not stop vapers from experiencing a number of oral health problems.

When we look into the vape industry, we struggle to find even the most basic information about oral health. Is this the next epidemic among vapers? Will they be plagued with plaque bacteria, dry mouth, tooth decay, and other avoidable problems?

And most importantly, can dentists tell if you vape?

Can Dentists Tell If You Vape?

Many vapers are anxious about their next visit to the dentist. After all, dentists are experts in oral health, and they can easily spot signs that their patients are vaping.

Like any burning question, there is no direct answer. Lots of factors impact your oral health. That being said, there are a few clear-cut signs that someone consumes nicotine.

Can Dentists Tell If You Vape?

Inflamed Gums and Stained Teeth

Regardless of whether or not your dentist can deduce that you vape, they will be able to tell whether you have consumed nicotine.

When mixed with saliva, nicotine acts as a dye. It stains teeth yellow and brown, so it’s pretty obvious when someone consumes nicotine. This is the first indicator that your dentist will see.

In the Baltic Journal of Health and Physical Activity, G Trybek and others concluded that nicotine ‘accelerates periodontitis’ and ‘changes the oral cavity microflora, increasing the amount of harmful bacteria and pathogenic fungi.’

Periodontitis is better known as gum disease, which has varying levels of seriousness. It begins with gingivitis, then progresses to tooth loss. At all stages of the disease, vapers can expect to see red, inflamed gums.

In 2020, researcher Smruti Pushalkar and others found that 43% of people that use e-cigarettes had gum disease and oral infections. It’s widely known that vapers and smokers may have inflamed gums, so it’s certainly something that your dentist will notice.

When dentists see inflamed gums, they may mention Clinical Attachment Loss (CAL), which is the technical term for the presence of periodontal disease. Nicotine use is very visible, especially to trained professionals. Your dentist will infer that you consume nicotine straight away.

Can Dentists Tell If You Vape? Dry mouth

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is just as pleasant as it sounds. It is one of the most common side effects of vaping, but what causes it?

Vape liquids are to blame. No matter which e-liquid you choose, it will contain two main ingredients. Propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG) form the basis for all vape liquids.

PG is ‘generally recognized as safe’ by the US Food and Drug Administration. Despite being safe for consumption, it does have a key quality that causes dry mouth. It is a hygroscopic compound, meaning it easily absorbs moisture from the air.

When you take a drag on your vape, the e-liquid vaporizes and you inhale a plume of vapor. The PG inside your liquid absorbs the moisture in your mouth, which disrupts the saliva flow. It binds to the saliva, which can no longer do its natural job. When your mouth has significantly reduced saliva, you might notice a dry, tickly feeling.

Reduced saliva leads to a dry tongue. Your dentist will notice that your tongue looks much dryer than usual, and they will probably notice the other signs associated with consuming propylene glycol. One of the main side effects of using nicotine is halitosis.


Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath, which is another by-product of dry mouth.

Saliva lubricates your mouth, but it also flushes away bad bacteria. When nicotine enters the picture, saliva is greatly reduced. As a result, bad bacteria have an opportunity to flourish. In a lot of cases, it sticks to your tongue, which is why you might see a white coating.

Ultimately, the result is bad breath. Your dentist will be able to diagnose you with halitosis and offer solutions to your problem.


Propylene glycol is not the only ingredient in your e-liquid that can cause problems. To create vape flavors, manufacturers use sucrose and sugar alcohol.

A 2018 study concluded that streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that causes cavities, were more than four times more likely to stick to tooth enamel in tests where vape aerosols were present. Furthermore, biofilm formation increased twofold in tests where flavored aerosols were present.

Biofilms are types of bacteria that exist together. They are difficult to wash away, so it’s not as simple as just brushing your teeth. They cause oral health issues such as gum disease.

Cavities alone might not be enough to alert your doctor to the fact that you have been vaping. Then again, if you have a healthy diet and don’t eat too many sweets, your dentist might wonder why you have suddenly developed cavities along with dry mouth, dry tongue, stained teeth, and so on.

Build Up of Plaque Bacteria

Build Up of Plaque Bacteria

Believe it or not, using vape aerosols can cause plaque. As we already know, vaping causes dry mouth. When you have less saliva in your mouth, plaque bacteria have free reign to multiply.

Plaque is a sticky substance that can build up on the surface of your teeth. If left undisturbed, plaque erodes enamel. Enamel protects your teeth from anything that they might come into contact with.

Not only will you be left with damaged teeth, but you are also at an increased risk of gum disease. Plaque can root underneath your gumline and cause an infection.

When plaque is allowed to grow, it hardens and develops into tartar. Tartar build-up is visible to the naked eye, and your dentist will definitely notice it.

Loss of Blood Flow

To add to the dental health concerns around tooth decay, oral cancer, and tooth enamel, vapers also have to worry about the blood supply to their mouth.

Again, nicotine is the culprit. This substance causes the blood vessels in your mouth to shrink, constrict, and eventually narrow. Wherever there is a lack of blood flow, there is poor circulation. This can lead to jaw pain and, even worse, it can cause gum tissue to die. Due to the new, lessened blood supply in your mouth, your gum tissues don’t get the oxygen and nutrients that they need to flourish.

In terms of dental aesthetics, nothing is more obvious than receding gums. The gums recede from the gum line and the root of the tooth becomes visible. When the root is exposed, teeth are far more vulnerable to tooth decay, cavities, and a whole host of other issues.

Mouth Cancer

Tooth staining and dry mouth might sound unpleasant, but there’s nothing quite as scary as mouth cancer. There has been much debate about whether or not vaping causes mouth cancer, but one recent study concluded that ‘the chemical vapors produced by vaping can alter or damage the epithelial cells, leading to oral ulcerations or oral cancer.’

But how do e-cigarettes cause cancer? Another study published by Translational Cancer Research states that ‘chemical analysis of e-cigarettes has shown the presence of volatile organic compounds with the potential for carcinogenicity.’ Formaldehyde is just one of the known carcinogens that are found in vape liquids.

Mouth cancer can take many forms, but your dentist will notice all of them. If you have mouth cancer, you might notice mouth burns, painful sores, or red patches on your tongue.

Can Dentists Tell If You Vape? Conceal Signs

How Do I Conceal Signs of Tooth Damage From My Dentist?

You should never conceal signs of damage from your dentist. If you do, you could be hiding early signs of gum disease, tooth decay, and, worst of all, mouth cancer.

Instead, have an open and honest conversation with your dentist about any problems that you have noticed. We promise that they’ve seen it all before.

Common signs of e-cigarette use like staining and dry mouth can be easily solved. Your dentist will be able to give you specialist advice to solve the problem. They might be able to stop gingivitis from becoming something more serious like gum disease, so it’s always advisable to be honest with your dental health specialist.

Is Vaping Better Than Smoking Cigarettes?

Whether you’re a smoker or a vaper, you will have heard this common piece of advice: to quit smoking, you should start vaping. But how much healthier is vaping?

The truth is that smoking traditional cigarettes is far worse. Traditional cigarettes contain tobacco, which comes from the leaves of the tobacco plant. Tobacco leaves contain more than 7,000 chemicals, with 250 being harmful to humans and 69 of them being known carcinogens.

In comparison, e-liquids only contain nicotine. E-liquid contains all the benefits of nicotine, without any of the downsides of tobacco. That being said, nicotine is still harmful to human health. The American Heart Association states that nicotine ‘can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, flow of blood to the heart and a narrowing of the arteries.’

Wrapping Up

So, now you know the answer to your question. Next time one of your friends asks, ‘can a dentist tell if you vape?’ you’ll be able to confirm that their dentist will notice all the common signs of nicotine consumption.

The reality is that dental health professionals are very intelligent, and many of them stay on top of the latest news in their field. They are aware of the signs of smoking cigarettes, vaping, and everything in between.

But don’t let that deter you. Regardless of whether you smoke cigarettes or use vape pens, you need to go for a regular check-up. It’s not impossible for vapers to have a pearly white smile, but it requires a lot more work. Your dentist is in the perfect position to advise you about treatments and other support.

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Viki Howlett
Viki Howlett
Viki Howlett, a skilled writer with a decade of vaping experience, enriches our website with engaging, well-researched articles, offering readers valuable insights and trustworthy reviews on vaping products and trends.
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