The mouth hosts a variety of microbes: bacteria, protozoans, viruses and fungi. Bacteria dominate, and some act as gatekeepers of the mouth, protecting us from pathogens.

Practices like vaping, however, can throw off the oral microbiome’s delicate balance, leading to health concerns for the mouth and the rest of the body.

“It’s not Vegas. What happens in the mouth doesn’t stay in the mouth,” said Purnima Kumar, professor of periodontology at The Ohio State University. “The mouth is the gateway to the body and because of that there is a pretty large and very vibrant, very dynamic and diverse microbial ecosystem.”

Last Spring, Kumar and her team published a study in Science Advances showing that vaping devices or electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) impact that ecosystem. Now, they’re trying to figure out how e-cigarettes do it.

Kumar’s group had been studying smoking cessation aids, like vaping devices, and grew curious about what, if anything, they might do to the mouth’s bacteria. The oral microbiome comprises several ecosystems, and Kumar’s team zoomed in on one of them, the bacteria beneath the gums. In their Science Advances studythe researchers analyzed genetic profiles of plaque samples from 123 people — 25 smokers, 25 nonsmokers, 20 e-cigarette users, 25 former smokers using e-cigarettes and 28 people using both e-cigarettes and cigarettes.

Studying the genes could tell the researchers what bacterial functions in the oral microbiome may differ between the groups. During the study all participants were healthy with no gum disease or active cavities.

Read full article here.

Jackie Rocheleau – Forbes – March 4, 2021.

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