Shisha is a staple of Middle Eastern culture and dates back over 500 years, more recently however, shisha has been adopted by younger generations and the increasing popularity and demand for shisha has led to an abundance of Shisha cafés and bad breath here in London.
When I question my peers about their attitude towards shisha and the health concerns associated with it, I wasn’t very shocked to find most denied that there were any. “It’s just water vapour” they would say or “my family does it and they’re all fine”; both of which are very naïve statements.
The notion that smoking from a water pipe is any less harmful only leads to your own destruction, as shisha may lead to serious dental health concerns as well as the many other general health problems including mouth cancer and even sexual dysfunction in males.
Shisha contains tobacco (maassel) which is sweetened to taste like apple, mint, watermelon etc. It is mixed with charcoal and various other chemicals to give its flavour and produce the clouds of smoke that teens pompously puff into rings whilst their friends snapchat it and post pictures on Instagram for others to admire.
Research suggests that regular shisha smokers are at five times greater risk of periodontal disease compared to non-smokers, which is a greater risk than even cigarette smokers. The research stated “the mean probing depth per person was 3.1 mm for water pipe smokers, 3.0 mm for cigarette smokers, 2.8 mm for mixed smokers, and 2.3 mm for non-smokers” (published by Journal of Periodontology). This is because there is an increased level of nicotine and cotinine in the saliva, blood plasma and urine of shisha smokers which affects the periodontal tissues. Gum disease is a condition where the gums become swollen, sore or infected which left untreated can lead to gingivitis. This is where the gums become very sensitive and can bleed when brushing teeth, as well as causing bad breath. Gingivitis left untreated develops into periodontitis which affects the tissues that hold up teeth, thus leading to them eventually falling out.
Not so long ago I was out with cousins and friends, after having dinner they all agreed we should go to a shisha lounge where they were meeting more friends. Being curious to the appeal shisha holds for so many I went along and soon realised why it was such a popular pastime. The atmosphere is cosy and warm and the large dimly lit rooms are filled with chatting people and sweet smelling smoke. We were there easily 2-3 hours as everyone was socialising and having a good time whilst inhaling all that smoke, the amount of smoke inhaled in one 45 min session can equal to about 100 cigarettes. I know, disappointing.
After leaving my mouth was rather dry and I realised it was, of course, due to the shisha. Dry mouth is another prevalent side effect. The smoke causes a decrease in saliva production which acts as a natural oral cleanser, this was a one off for me but those who have adopted this as a lifestyle can expect to become more susceptible to cavities. Your mouth will be less able to neutralise acids and this may aid the development of caries.
Halitosis (bad breath) also accompanies any type of smoking and unfortunately smoking shisha involves inhaling even larger amounts of smoke, the sweet smell can be quite misleading. This is probably more of a problem for those around you.
Amongst my age group smoking shisha can be described as a call for attention, a destructive trend that is not about to go out of fashion any time soon. We should do our oral health a favour and drop the shisha pipes.