I have an amazing and super important story to tell you – and of course, I’m changing the name of the person involved to protect his privacy.

So Jeff went to his new holistic dentist and had a full panoramic (3D) CT Scan done on his teeth, jaw bone and lower sinuses. It cost $260.

If you’ve never had one of these CT scans done, let me tell you, they are worth their weight in gold! When I had mine done, I was amazed to finally have a full, complete picture of what was going on in my entire jaw, to finally be able to make informed decisions about, for example, whether I should fill that tooth, or crown it. It also revealed infection in my lower jaw from a wisdom tooth extraction 23 years ago, where the ligament had not been removed (they didn’t do that back then) and the rot had spread to the bone, all the way to the nerve at the bottom of the jaw.

I said, “If I were a dentist, I would refuse to even touch someone’s mouth until they’d had this scan.” So much unnecessary dental work could have been prevented if I’d had all the facts at the beginning.

So when Jeff – who’s only 19 years old – told me that his molar had a giant hole in it and was super painful, along with 4 additional cavities in his mouth, I was astounded that someone so young could be facing the loss of a permanent tooth already! Yes, he’d been living like most of his peers – eating mostly take-out food (low nutrients, high anti-nutrients like preservatives and artificial colors and various texturizing chemicals), drinking alcohol, getting together regularly to smoke weed or vape. Granted Jeff’s oral hygiene wasn’t good – he admitted often not brushing his teeth for weeks or months at a time. Was the combination enough to result in him likely losing a tooth before age 20…?

But then I saw the results of his CT scan. The first thing the dentist said to him was, “Are you a smoker?” But even the dentist was puzzled as to how there could be such dramatic bone loss in one so young – perhaps Jeff had started smoking cigarettes at age 9 or so?? Jeff replied, “No. I vape or smoke cannabis – but not every day.”

The CT scan also revealed that the molar with the hole in it was infected even under the root of the tooth – and that infection had spread up into his sinus cavity directly above the tooth. If your sinus is clear, it just appears as a black hole. But if it’s filled with mucus or pus, it appears grey and cloudy. Jeff’s sinus cavity was 1/3 filled with infection. You see why this scan is so important?

Example of 3D CT Scan (c)Dentsplysirona.com

Without this 3D, panoramic CT Scan, a regular dentist would likely give Jeff a root canal. But even if the dentist had read the research on how root canals seal infection into the tooth root and jaw bone, and so pulled the tooth instead – without knowing there was already infection up into the sinus cavity, he would not know to also drain the mucus/pus out of the sinus and flush it with a sterilant like ozone!

But Jeff also had 3 other cavities and advanced decay in another molar – underneath an existing filling – that now required a crown. We’re talking over $5,000 in dental work at only 19 years old! And Jeff played sports, lifted weights, got lots of fresh air, slept well, was doing well in his relationships and work life… something was not adding up right.

Cannabis or Vape?

Since Jeff didn’t smoke cigarettes and ate plenty of dairy products, I figured the culprit causing bone loss had to be either vaping or smoking marijuana. When I trained martial arts in London for 3 years (in my twenties), all my friends there smoked cannabis daily. And they had great teeth. They also ate mostly home-cooked food. But still. If weed was the problem, they would have had some serious dental issues. My gut kept leading me back to the vape.

I knew that vape had such a high amount of glycerine, that it would be super sticky on the teeth (not to mention the lungs). Perhaps this stickiness is what causes the extensive decay? I remember a dentist from 20 years ago – Dr. Gerald Judd – who was adamant that you should never use toothpaste containing glycerine/glycerol because it’s so sticky you would have to rinse 25 times to get the glycerine completely off your teeth.

But how could that cause bone loss?

A typical vape liquid, or e-juice base is composed of:

  • 50% vegetable glycerol
  • 49% propylene glycol
  • 1% artificial flavoring

I couldn’t find any data indicating that any of these ingredients on their own had any negative effect on bone health. However, when these elements are heated together and turned into vapor…

“Formaldehyde is known as a product of propylene glycol and glycerol vapor degradation. Formaldehyde is one of the chemical agents categorized as a carcinogen.”

Another study showed that formaldehyde inhibited cell survival of bone tissue. And the EU Assessment Report on Formaldehyde says:

“A relationship between exposure to formaldehyde and haematopoetic malignancies, especially myeloid leukaemia, was indicated in epidemiological studies. Meta-analysis supported the association when taking into account the level of exposure to formaldehyde, in line with reports on lymphatic cell genotoxicity and bone marrow toxicity in highly exposed humans.”

Studies have also found e-cigarettes to contain harmful substances like acrolein and diethylene glycol.

However, I then found an article fully confirming my suspicion here:

Vaping liquid decreases bone cells’ ability to live.

The College of Idaho conducted preliminary tests on bone cells in 2015 to see what effect vaping had on them. They set up a vaping machine to expose the cells to the vapor. After hearing children were drinking the liquid, they also administered liquid directly on the cells. In both instances, vape liquid — in vapor or liquid forms — decreased the bone cells’ ability to live.

E-cigarette vapor contains nicotine. We know how nicotine affects the body and interferes with healing; it:

• Slows blood flow
• Lowers oxygen levels necessary for health, healing, and bone fusion
• Reduces the spinal discs ability to hold water and cushion the spinal column
• Stunts the development of new bone
• Causes bone to lose minerals and density”

The article concludes that vaping is as harmful as cigarette smoking. But in Jeff’s case, to cause that much bone loss in only 3 years, in an otherwise healthy, fit, 19 year old male, I would have to say that vaping is far more harmful than cigarettes.

Also very interesting to note, in the College of Idaho study, the flavored e-juice damaged the bone cells far more than the unflavored vape juice. Yet again, suggesting that the chemical components (or the synergy of these components) is having serious ramifications – especially on the still-developing bones and teeth of youth (up to age 25 the jaw and other bones are still growing).

The super worrying thing here is that vaping is rampant among kids in junior high, high school and college. I guarantee you that NONE of these kids (or their parents) have any idea that vaping might cause such severe bone loss or tooth decay.

Perhaps some kids will not experience an increase in decay because their oral microbiota is not conducive to decay, but will they still experience massive bone loss in their jaw? Without that CT scan, you’ll never know. This is definitely an area where more studies are needed, and on youth as well as adults, as the ramifications are serious indeed.

What about Meth Mouth?

As I waded through all this information, pictures kept flashing in my mind of crystal meth addicts and their horrible teeth

Meth mouth (c) Dr. Chris Heringlake, DDS, St. Cloud Correctional Facility

“Perhaps most telling of a meth addiction is the so-called “meth mouth”, which is caused by a number of different issues. One is that the chemicals in the drug dissolve the enamel of the teeth. Furthermore, it affects the blood vessels so that the gums no longer receive the appropriate blood supply. The result is that teeth start to decay. Furthermore, meth slows down saliva production, thereby allowing various acids to cause damage to the teeth and gums.”

Propylene glycol is a liquid alcohol which is used as a solvent, and in some types of antifreeze (not to be confused with the really toxic polypropylene glycol). And what are the ingredients used to make Meth? Here’s a list of them that are also found in solvents, antifreeze, nail polish remover, etc: acetone, anhydrous ammonia and toluene. I’m not enough of a chemist to be able to correlate these ingredients, but there just might be a commonality here – especially when we look at synergistic effects.

So are there any studies linking methamphetamine to bone loss? Yes there are:

“Methamphetamine has been known to cause premature osteoporosis, whereby teeth and bones become more brittle and prone to breaking.”

The corrosive chemicals in meth are what damage the teeth, but obviously, the teeth are not separate from the jaw bone and the entire jaw is an absorptive, alive part of the body. Although we have plenty of data on meth, because it’s been around for so long, and it’s an illegal substance – so no corporate interests are profiting from sales – we have far less data on vape or e-juice.

I hope this article contributes to the discussion and awareness of the harmful effects of vaping / e-cigarettes and I REALLY really hope that someone carries out more scientific studies on vaping and bone loss. Giving users jaw CT scans, or bone density tests would be a great way to find out how common this issue is and also how severe it is. Is Jeff an outlier, with a rare response? Or is he the tip of the iceberg? And how much more severe is the bone loss in youth, whose bones and jaw are still growing and developing?

I also suspect that vaping is far more addictive than people currently think. What chemicals are the “artificial flavors” composed of? We’ll never know, but as there are an entire class of neural flavors (act on the brain, not the tastebuds) that are ‘legal’ for food usage (without needing to specify anything on the label other than ‘artificial flavors’) and that definitely play a role in processed-food addiction… I’m sure the vape manufacturers have managed to slide some addictive chemicals into the e-juice. Just like they did with cigarettes. Follow the money.