Chew On This: Dental Implants For Smokers

Dental implant options have replaced traditional bridges and dentures, resulting in stronger, more natural-looking teeth. Acting as permanent replacement for teeth and their roots, implants allow you to speak and eat normally, and look great. If you are a smoker, however, the option to have dental implants may be risky. Here's how smoking can affect your dental implants, and what you can do about it.

The Nature Of The Beast

The key to a successful dental implant is the root implant itself, usually made of titanium. Once placed directly into the socket of a missing tooth, the root must wait for the jawbone to heal around the titanium post, anchoring it into place. Along the way, gum tissue and muscles heal as well. This process takes 6-12 weeks. If you smoke before or during this time, several things can happen:

  1. Implant Failure

On a good day, smoking only increases the risk of gum disease as tobacco and other chemicals hamper the healthiness and regenerative qualities of gum tissue. However, once implants are placed, teeth and gums already weakened by gum disease cannot regenerate properly. As a result, the implants are unable to fuse properly with the jaw and the procedure is unsuccessful.

  1. Infection

Smoking reduces your body's ability to recover from a dental implant surgery, bumping up your chances of developing an infection. Smoking right after surgery allows bacteria and chemicals to enter the open wounds. The effectiveness of your antibiotics is lowered as well, making an infection harder to treat.

  1. Slow Recovery

Just as smoking decreases the ability of your jaw and gum tissue to heal, it also affects your body's overall ability to recover. Smoking limits respiration, metabolic activity, and blood flow. The end result – prolonged side effects like pain and bleeding, and a longer recovery.

Increase Your Success

Each dental implant case is different, and your dentist will consider your candidacy from every angle, such as how long you smoked, if or when you quit, and the state of your overall health. Your dentist will advise you to quit smoking before the surgery and throughout the entire recovery period. In addition to not smoking, here are some other habits you can indulge in to increase the success of your teeth implants:

  • Don't drink alcohol – it can interfere with antibiotics
  • Don't eat hard, sticky food that wrenches at and stresses your teeth
  • Brush and floss religiously to prevent plaque from accumulating on your new teeth and causing infection