If you have been looking into tooth replacement options for yourself, there is no doubt that you have heard of dental implants. Implants have become the #1 fixed option to replace your missing teeth in the United States. What you may not know, however, is how smoking can negatively impact your ability to get dental implants. In this article, we discuss what implants are, their healing process, and how smokers may have a lower chance of success with them.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are posts that are inserted into your jawbone to simulate the roots of your teeth. These posts are made of a metal called titanium, which fuses to your bone tissue in a process known as osseointegration. Once the fusion process is completed (a process that can take up to 4 months), an abutment and implant crown are placed on top of this post completing the treatment and allowing you to chew once again. Dental implants have surpassed dental bridges as the main form of tooth replacement option across the nation.
Why does smoking affect dental implants?
The healing process after the dental implants are inserted is a primary reason why they tend to be less successful in smokers.
- When the post is placed inside your jawbone, blood vessels found within your bone tissue begin the healing process. Smoking can reduce the number of these blood vessels found in our bone tissue, affecting the mechanism of healing once the implants are placed. This causes a greater chance of implant failure, especially for chronic smokers. Statistics have shown that non-smokers have a greater chance of success with dental implants than smokers do.
- Smokers also have a greater tendency of having poor oral hygiene standards, and periodontal problems (gum disease) further lowering the success rate of implant therapy on these patients. Gum disease around the site of the implant can lead to a condition known as peri-implantitis, a chronic inflammatory condition that ultimately leads to implant failure.
- Smoking can also affect our salivary glands, lowering the amount of saliva that our body produces. Since our saliva contains antibodies that hinder infections, smokers tend to have higher rates of infections in the surgical sites following dental implant placement.
- Nicotine, a chemical found if tobacco products, also slows down the flow of blood and oxygen to the surgery site preventing proper healing of the implant after surgery. This lack of proper blood flow also weakens our immune system increasing the chance of infection in smokers who receive dental implants.
The adverse affects that smoking puts on our oral health can be dramatic, which is why most dentists are beginning to refuse placing implants on patients who smoke on a regular basis.
Smoking tends to lead to early implant failure meaning that the implants that are placed tend not to last too long after the surgery has commenced. This is again due to the lack of healing properties that most chronic cigarette smokers show.
How long after dental implant surgery can you smoke?
Although it is advised that smokers quit their habit altogether, we understand that in the real-world this is not possible. At Best Dental, we advise our patients to hold off on smoking for at least two weeks prior to their implant surgery. This gives them the greatest chance of success.
When you can smoke after surgery can vary, but it is recommend that you wait a minimum of three months to maximize the chance of integration between your bone tissue and the dental implant. You certainly do not want to smoke in the days following your surgery as it can not only prevent healing, but can also lead to infections seen around the surgery site. It is very important not to smoke for at least 72 hours after the surgery is completed.
How to lower the risk of implant failure if you are a smoker
If you a regular smoker, the following guidelines may help increase the chance of implant success after your surgery
- Attempt to quit smoking altogether. Find a good smoking cessation program online to get started, and see a physician about medications that can help you along the way.
- Brushing and flossing after you smoke can keep your mouth clean and healthier improving the chance of implant success after surgery.
- Make sure you visit your dentist regularly for check ups and cleanings to keep your mouth as health as possible.
Dental implant therapy has revolutionized how dentists treat missing teeth. It is a wonderful option that modern dentistry has provided for us. Unfortunately, reality has shown us that smokers have less of a chance of implant success leading many dentists to advise them into getting dental bridges instead. Talk to your dental team to see if your smoking habits are preventing you from getting dental implants.