Dental implants can transform your mouth, but if you are a smoker, you can doom them to failure. In addition, your dentist may not even be willing to install them.
Dental implants are manufactured devices to create artificial teeth that look like your own natural teeth. By implanting a titanium screw in your jaw, the dentist has a base for installing a crown. While they can be used to create a whole set of dentures, many patients get them to replace single teeth as needed.
Why Smoking Threatens Dental Implants
While some dentists may be willing to do implants for smokers, it depends on the condition of your gums and the amount of bone you have to hold the implant. Bone grafting can increase the likelihood of implant success of the process, but the process may be ineffective among smokers as smoke limits bone growth.
While implant success is fairly high in the general population, smoking can impact their original and long-term effectiveness. Doctors are unsure why smoking makes healing after surgery more precarious. Possible reasons include:
- When you inhale smoke, you burn the oral tissues and keratosis, or thickening of the top layer of skin cells.
- Smoke damages salivary glands so that the mouth is dry, and there is no fluid to wash away bacteria which leads to periodontal disease.
- Nicotine and other toxic ingredients in cigarettes affect peripheral vessels in the mouth so that there is less blood flow, which affects healing and immune mechanisms.
For dental implants to work, the titanium screw must fuse with the bone through the process of osseo-integration. If you smoke right after an implant, you increase your chance of infection, especially if you are a heavy smoker who smokes during the first three weeks of the procedure. Even if the titanium properly bonds, the osseo-integration can fail over time as bone loss occurs around the implants. Studies show that the loss on implants among smokers occurs at a rate of 0.16 mm/year, which compounds over time to threaten the implant.
Failure Rates Among Smokers
While implants show that they last for over 20 years after an initial failure rate of 8%, twice as many failures occur among smokers. Statistically, when looking at large numbers of records, many smokers do maintain successful implants, but if you are the one who experiences failure, you might be in for an unpleasant clinical experience as treating a failing implant is difficult and painful.
Implants are an effective but expensive remedy for tooth loss. A dentist who performs them wants his patients to be happy with the results and feel that the investment was justified. While an oral surgeon and other dental professional will examine each dental implant candidate on an individual basis, he will be cautious if you are a smoker.
Improving Implant Success Rate for Smokers
For best results with implants, you should try to quit smoking completely, or as a poor second choice, stop smoking for a week before and two weeks after the procedure. Make sure to follow good oral hygiene practices and be diligent about seeing your doctor for checkups and cleaning.
To see whether dental implants will work for you, especially if you are a smoker, contact the oral surgeons at Oral Surgery of Utah.