If you do partake in the odd cigarette or two and are considering dental implant surgery for missing teeth, you’ll probably want to know whether dental implants and smoking work or whether it’s a deal-breaker. In other words, would you still qualify for dental implant treatment as a smoker?
The truth is that while smoking is well documented as a health risk, less is known about its association with dental implant failure. That said, most experts would agree that while smoking is a risk factor with dental implants, it isn’t an absolute contraindication. So while smokers will face some added challenges in the long-term success of their dental implants, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have the smile they love with proper maintenance.
With this in mind, it’s worth looking at dental implants and smoking and analysing how the habit can affect an implant-based restoration. So let’s dive in…
Smoking affects saliva production
Research confirms that substances contained within tobacco smoke (primarily nicotine) destroy many of the protective macro-molecules and enzymes found within saliva and become a carrier for harmful bacteria.
Moreover, smoking can also block the salivary glands causing a condition known as dry mouth. A plentiful supply of saliva is good for your oral health because it helps wash away any food and debris while preventing prolonged acid attacks on tooth enamel.
Ultimately a lack of (or harmful) saliva can trigger tooth decay and gum disease, including weakening the bone that houses a dental implant.
While you can’t do much to prevent a bacterial change in your saliva when smoking, you can avoid dry mouth and protect your dental implants by regularly chewing sugar-free gum and sipping water throughout the day.
Nicotine slows down the osseointegration process
One of the most important aspects of dental implant success is bone-to-implant fusion (known as osseointegration). Once the implant is placed into the jawbone, the surrounding bone tissue naturally fuses with the implant over several months. This process creates a stable platform for placing a dental crown or bridge.
Unfortunately, smoking restricts the flow of oxygen to the blood (a vital ingredient for regenerating new tissue cells), meaning the osseointegration process becomes far less predictable.
If you are a smoker, dentists will strongly advise that you quit before receiving dental implants until after osseointegration. Typically, full integration takes somewhere between 2-5 months.
Smoking slows healing capabilities
This goes hand in hand with the paragraph above in that oxygen-rich blood can assist the body in healing quicker. On the contrary, exposure to nicotine weakens the body’s immune defences and, ultimately, its natural healing capabilities.
As you can see, dental implants and smoking are not easy bed-fellows, but that doesn’t mean that dental implant surgery is impossible.
So how do you lessen the risk of complications after undergoing dental implants?
We’ve already alluded to this in part, but preparation is key for smokers wishing to undergo dental implant surgery. Here’s what you can do to ensure your treatment is a success.
Quit smoking altogether
While this may be easier said than done, stopping smoking will improve your overall health while lowering the risk of implant failure. There are numerous methods and programs available online to help you quit. If for whatever reason, you really can’t commit to it permanently, you will need to stop for the duration of the healing process. Typically you would be looking at one week before dental implant surgery and 2-5 months after.
In the first few days after dental implants, your body will produce blood clots in and around the implant site. Blood clots are the body’s way of forming a protective barrier over the surgical site while preventing food, bacteria, and debris from entering. Actions such as inhaling smoke can loosen the blood clots causing a painful condition known as dry socket. For this reason, it’s crucial not to smoke immediately after dental implant surgery.
Step up your oral hygiene routine
After undergoing dental implants, oral hygiene needs to be spot on, but it’s particularly relevant with smokers. Cigarette smoke carries approximately 3000 chemicals, but evidence suggests that smokers are also inhaling a gamut of live bacteria that thrives on the tobacco plant itself. Unfortunately, bacteria is a dental implant’s Achilles heel. Therefore smokers must brush their teeth after smoking and after meals or, at the very least, use a dental water jet.
Visit the dentist regularly
While it’s essential for your oral health to make regular dental visits, it’s even more important for smokers.
Your dentist will notice any changes in your dental implant long before you, and they can do something about it before it fails.
Consider dental visits a small investment in the long-term success of your dental implants.
So for the final time… can you undergo dental implants when you smoke?
In a word, maybe, but only if precautionary measures are taken. Because everyone’s case is unique, each patient will be judged on merit to see whether they are a suitable candidate. For this reason, it’s essential to talk with your local dentist to see whether dental implants are a viable and appropriate option for you.
To learn more about the connection between dental implants and smoking, why not book a smile consultation with your nearest No Gaps Dental clinic. We have 15 convenient locations scattered throughout the Sydney Metropolitan area, where we keep our prices affordable without compromising the quality of service.
Book your no-obligation implant consultation today or call a No Gaps Dental clinic near you and kickstart your journey towards a great-looking and long-lasting smile.
Reach us out by calling us on 02 8007 6727 today.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
NCBI – The Effects Of Tobacco Smoking On Salivation
Scientific American – Inhaling Bacteria With Cigarette Smoke