E-cigarette Explodes in Teen's Mouth, Blowing up His Teeth and Breaking His Jaw

A teenage boy in Utah was left with a broken jaw and teeth after an electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth.

The 17-year-old arrived at the emergency department of University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City, two hours after the e-cigarette burst in his mouth, according to a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. His jaw was swollen and he complained his mouth was painful

When doctors examined him, they discovered he had punctured his chin, a number of his teeth were damaged, his lower jaw was fractured, and his lip was burned. Staff removed some of his teeth and damaged tissue.

Dr. Katie Russell, a pediatric trauma surgeon at the University of Utah and Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, told Newsweek the facility's earth, nose and throat surgeon Dr Skirko had to plate his lower jaw and wire it shut for 6 weeks while it healed.

"He is still missing teeth but hopes to get teeth implants this summer. He quit smoking after this," Russell told Newsweek.

She told Live Science: "When I met this patient, I had no idea that a vape pen could do this. It takes a lot of force to break your jaw."

A six-week check up showed the boy had recovered well.

New England Journal of Medicine  vape e-cigarette
The boy's teeth after an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth. New England Journal of Medicine

Dr. Micah G. Katz and Dr. Katie W. Russell who treated the patient and detailed his condition in the case study wrote: "The increasing prevalence of vaping among adolescents is a public health concern."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Disease, e-cigarettes entered the U.S. marketplace in 2007. The percentage of high school students who used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days has sky-rocketed from 1.5 percent in 2011, or 220,000, to 20.8 percent in 2018, or 3.05 million.

Russell told Newsweek: "I think vaping is becoming an epidemic. This is a major problem. Vaping hit the market with a storm and millions of youth are using these devices. It seems like the overall feeling is that vaping is more innocent than smoking conventional cigarettes, but I'm not sure we know that.

"Nicotine is detrimental for the developing brain. In addition to that, these devices can explode causing major harm. This is becoming more and more common. My advice is that we all continue to educate consumers and specifically engage our youth population in this discussion. I recommend refraining from this habit."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the percentage of teenagers who said they used e-cigarettes in the past month (2018 data).

Vaping teens statista

The case highlights that on the rare occasion that the batteries of vape devices can explode, the consequences can be dangerous, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns. The FDA urges anyone who has encountered an explosion or any unexpected health or safety issue with a device to report it the body.

It is unclear why e-cigarette batteries explode, but to avoid such incidents, the FDA recommends users attach safety features like firing button locks and vent holes to prevent the devices from overcharging.

Loose batteries should be kept away from metal objects like keys, and vapes should be charged using the plug which came with it, not on a phone or tablet charger. Batteries should be replaced if they are damaged or wet, and charging an e-cigarette overnight or unattended is not advised.

This article was updated to include an infographic, and to add comment from Dr. Katie Russell.