Can Dentists Tell if Your Teen Vapes? The Answer May Surprise You

By Melissa Hed

January 17, 2023

We all know that smoking stains teeth. But what about vaping tobacco and marijuana products — does that leave telltale signs on teeth, too? Can dentists tell if you vape? If you’re wondering if vaping affects teeth and whether your teen’s dentist can tell you if your teen vapes, read on to find out.


Do Dentists Know if Your Teen Vapes?

Will a dentist know if your teen vapes e-cigarettes just by looking in their mouth? 1

Dental signs of vaping. 2

Will a dentist know if your teen vapes weed? 3

Will the dentist tell me if my teen vapes? 4

How can you protect your teen’s oral health if you suspect (or know) they vape? 5

Vaping Facts for Teens. 6

More information about vaping. 7

Will a dentist know if your teen vapes e-cigarettes just by looking in their mouth?

A close up of a teenager vaping, hand holding e-cigarette surrounded by vaping smoke

Yup! A dentist will know if your teen vapes because nicotine smoked in any form negatively impacts oral health, specifically teeth and gums. 

Although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they still contain highly concentrated amounts of nicotine, which can damage the mouth. How much nicotine is in e-cigs? Just one e-cigarette typically delivers the same amount of nicotine as two to three packs of regular cigarettes.

Does vaping affect your teeth? Your teen’s dentist (and hygienist and orthodontist) will suspect vaping when they see yellow or brown stains on your teen’s teeth because nicotine creates yellow or brown stains on teeth when it mixes with saliva. Those stains can be difficult (and expensive!) to remove and may eventually damage tooth enamel.

Nicotine can also damage gum tissue, cause gum disease and infections, create periodontal pockets, cause tooth loss, and contribute to bone loss.

Dental signs of vaping.

If these vaping signs are present upon examination, there’s a good chance your dentist will suspect your teen vapes nicotine products:

  • Nicotine stains on teeth
  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Plaque build-up
  • Tooth decay and/or soft enamel
  • Cavities
  • Inflamed gums
  • Gum recession
  • Gum disease
  • Signs of stress, like teeth grinding and jaw clenching

Will a dentist know if your teen vapes weed?

Probably not, unless, of course, your teen shows up to their dental appointment high. Vaping weed doesn’t have the same effect as smoking nicotine on dental health.

Dry mouth may be an issue, but it will be difficult for your dentist to pinpoint vaping marijuana as the sole cause for that condition.

Can dentists tell if you smoke only sometimes?

Probably not. Unless your teen smokes here and there over a long period and the dental effects of regular smoking have surfaced, it’s unlikely that the dentist will identify the signs of your teen’s infrequent smoking habits. Then again, if your teen doesn’t maintain good oral hygiene, the effects of vaping will be more noticeable.

Will the dentist know if your teen vapes once?

No. A dentist will not know if your teen tried vaping once, especially if they didn’t do it on the day of their appointment. Vaping one time won’t affect your teen’s oral health.

Is it possible for my teen to hide that they vape from their dentist?

Sure, to an extent, especially if they practice good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing twice a day can minimize tooth decay and stains and breath fresheners can hide bad breath.

Will the dentist tell me if my teen vapes?

Two teenagers vaping outside and damaging their dental health and teeth

Maybe. If your teen is a minor and covered by your dental insurance, the dentist can notify you and explain the dental health risks of vaping.

However, if your teen goes to the dentist alone and requests that the dentist keep their personal information private, the dentist may agree and keep information about your teen’s vaping away from you.

If your teen is over 18, or legally an adult, their dentist won’t be able to tell anyone, including you, because of HIPAA and patient-doctor confidentiality.

How can you protect your teen’s oral health if you suspect (or know) they vape?

First, it’s essential to get your teen to practice good oral hygiene, which includes brushing and flossing twice a day and frequent self-examination of their teeth, gums, tongue, and the inside of their mouth. If your teen notices pain, discomfort, sores, or discoloration, they should tell you so you can address it.

Second, make sure they have a dental checkup and cleaning every six months; more frequently, if there’s a problem.

Third, share the following vaping facts with your teen.

Vaping Facts for Teens.

Results from the 2022 Annual National Youth Tobacco Survey show that 1 in 10 high school and middle school students vape e-cigarettes. That’s over 2.5 million teens! And out of those teens, 1 in 4 vape daily.

Given those numbers, don’t wait or ignore having a conversation about vaping with your teen. It’s vitally important that our teens know the risks of vaping! A good place to start is by sharing these three big facts about vaping with your teen.

  1. Vaping can be more addictive than smoking traditional cigarettes, and many times more difficult to stop.
  2. The nicotine in just one vape is so concentrated, it’s equivalent to smoking 2 to 3 packs of cigarettes.
  3. Vape manufacturers purposefully target teens by creating vapes that taste like candy and smell like fruit because they want to get teens hooked on their product.

More information about vaping.

We have lots more information about vaping and how you can safeguard your teen’s health.

Watch these videos:

Why We Need to Tackle the Teen Vaping Crisis

Vaping: Do we know all there is to know? What’s next?

Helping Teens Quit Vaping with Dr. Thomas Ylioja

Read these articles:

Vaping Damage: Can Vaping Damage Your Teen’s Mouth?

A New Study Finds Parents Can Help Prevent Vaping

Confusion and Fear: Finding More Information about Vaping

And remember to talk about it with your teen!

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