Whether you've recently had a tooth extracted or are looking for an alternative to a dental bridge you've had for years, you may be considering a dental implant. These artificial teeth are far more durable than dental bridges and don't risk damage to your surrounding teeth. But if you're a smoker, getting dental implants can present a few more challenges than it would to a nonsmoker. Read on to learn more about how smoking and other tobacco use can impact the dental implant process.
How Do Dental Implants Work?
Dental implants take the place of your natural teeth by attaching an artificial tooth to a titanium post that is implanted into your jaw (hence the term "implants"). Over time, this titanium post will attach itself to the bone in your jaw through a process known as osseointegration. Although you may periodically require a new artificial tooth to affix to the top of the titanium post, once osseointegration has taken place, your implant should be a permanent part of your body.
Because of this, dental implants are a popular option among young people or those who need to replace a front or visible tooth. Dental bridges, which attach to the surrounding teeth, can be weakened due to tooth decay over time. Meanwhile, dentures often aren't a good option for those who need to replace only a couple of teeth.
Why Does Smoking Present Complications For Dental Implants?
Smoking does not only stain teeth, but it also constricts the capillaries and other blood vessels that carry blood into the gums. This can mean that smoking makes it harder for oral sores and contusions to heal. This can present a twofold problem when it comes to dental implants. Without good blood flow, the chances that your body will reject the titanium post and require removal increase; in addition, smoking after the implantation has taken place can delay healing and increase the risk of infection.
Smokers often suffer from dry mouth, so those who don't make an extra effort to keep their mouth hydrated after an implant procedure may also have extra sensitivity to heat and cold. As a result, many dentists will shy away from recommending implants to their patients who smoke.
Unfortunately, these risks aren't just limited to cigarette or cigar smokers. Those who use smokeless tobacco like snus or chewing tobacco deal with the same restricted blood flow as smokers and are likely to suffer the same complications. On the other hand, those who use only nicotine gum or a nicotine patch may have a lesser risk of complications because they generally consume less nicotine than an active tobacco smoker or chewer.
Do You Have to Quit Smoking Before You Get Dental Implants?
Because the risk of a wide range of complications increases significantly with tobacco use, dentists may be conscious of their chances of being sued for malpractice if they perform an implant procedure on a current smoker or tobacco user. You may find it tough to find a dentist who is willing to place implants unless you agree to quit smoking during the implant prep, the procedure itself, and a recovery period that may range from a few weeks to a few months. If you don't agree to quit smoking, your dentist may require you to sign a waiver that releases him or her from liability for any common complications.
Getting dental implants can be a life-changing procedure for those who have suffered the loss of one or more permanent teeth. But they're also a commitment, so if you're serious about implants, it's a good idea to stop smoking first. Doing so will significantly improve your odds of a positive outcome.