If you smoke or are thinking about starting, a warning — your dental implants are more likely to fail when you smoke, leading to potentially serious health problems.
According to a recent study published by the National Institutes of Health, smoking can have a very destructive effect. So what should you do?
Tell Your Doctor
If you are considering dental implant surgery and you currently smoke, it’s important to truthfully disclose this to your dentist or oral surgeon prior to surgery. He or she will work with you to minimize implant failure risk and provide you with resources to quit smoking.
Understanding Dental Implant Failure
The dental implant, itself, replaces the roots of the tooth and leaves a post for a crown or bridge to secure to it. Once the implant replaces the roots, it undergoes a process called osseointegration. This means that it fuses with the existing bone. The integration with natural bone and gum tissue provides strength and stability that allows the implants to function just like your other teeth.
It’s essential that the jaw and mouth are healthy during the osseointegration process.
When disease or infection occurs, it slows the healing process and prevents the proper integration of your implants. The formal name for dental implant failure is peri-implantitis.
How Smoking Causes Peri-Implantitis
Smoking already increases the likelihood of developing gum disease and lowers the effectiveness of your immune response. When you have oral surgery, you can normally prevent an infection by getting adequate rest, and following your oral surgeon’s other post-operative instructions. Even when an infection or inflammation does occur, you can normally treat it with antibiotics. If caught early enough, this may have no lasting impact on post-surgical healing.
Treating an infection or inflammation early may not always be enough when you smoke tobacco. That’s because it reduces the effect of any antibiotic your dentist may prescribe.
Smoking increases the risk of infection as well as the severity of that risk. It also promotes gum disease, which is a leading cause of dental implant failure. Untreated gum disease causes inflammation of the gums, loose teeth, tender gums, increasingly exposed teeth, and pockets along the gum line. It makes it difficult for gum tissue to heal after an implant procedure when disease is present. This can spread to other soft and hard tissues.
When gum disease reaches bone tissue, it causes loss of bone and additional loss of teeth. Unfortunately, any degree of gum disease can threaten the success of dental implants.
Ask for Resources to Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking is, no doubt, extremely difficult — especially when you have done it for decades. Be sure to ask your dentist or regular doctor for resources that will help you kick the habit. These could include prescription medication to control nicotine cravings, referral to a smoking cessation program, or working one-on-one with a counselor as you go through the quitting process. Quit smoking now! Not only will you have lesser chances of dental implant failure, your overall health will improve – and that’s a promise!