A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is surgically placed into your jawbone to provide support for a dental prosthetic device such as a bridge, crown, or full arch denture. Currently, dental implants are a long-term option for replacing missing teeth. However, there is one segment of the population that may not see the same results in dental implants due to problems in the healing process: cigarette smokers. Here's why and what you can do to prevent problems with your future dental implants if you smoke cigarettes.
The Risks of Smoking When Getting Dental Implants
One of the things your dentist asks you is whether or not you smoke, right? The reason for this is because cigarette smoking is well-known to adversely affect oral health. The same holds true for dental implant placement, particularly during the healing process. Here are several of the risks:
- The main risk is peri-implantitis, which is the inflammation of the bone structure and gums around the dental implant. When the bone and tissues are inflamed, bacteria can get in underneath the gums and grow, causing further infection and inflammation. Researchers have found that the risk of inflammation is greater in smokers due to the increased release of cytokines in their blood compared to that of non-smokers. Cytokines are molecules that are responsible for signaling cells to migrate towards infection and trauma, an immune system response that essentially results in inflammation.
- Another risk is poor wound healing, with the wound being the surgical scar from the placement of the dental implant. The reason for poor wound healing in smokers is that nicotine seems to impair fibroblast cells, which are supposed to produce collagen. Collagen, essentially, is the glue that binds cells together and to each other and, therefore, is necessary in the wound healing process. Another cause of poor wound healing is that nicotine causes vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the areas of the mouth that are exposed to smoke, which reduces the amount of blood flow to the surgical site. Proper blood flow is necessary for the healing process.
- Implant failure is another risk for those who smoke cigarettes while recovering from dental implant surgery. Researchers discovered that salivary arginase activity decreases in smokers with dental implants, which may lead to a decrease in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is important in the immune system as it protects against bacteria. The reduced ability for the immune system to fight bacterial infections can put the dental implant at risk of failure.
Your dental health professionals will be able to give you more information about these and other risks of smoking during the healing process based on your particular situation and the extent of your procedure.
The Options for Mitigating Your Risks
Of course, the best thing you could do to mitigate your risks is to stop smoking entirely and never light up again in your life. However, if you've ever tried to quit before or you know someone who has, you know that is easier said than done. For purposes of reducing your risks during the healing process after surgical placement of dental implants, it is a good idea to try to stop smoking or at least cut down as much as you can.
Consider smoking cessation therapies such as hypnotherapy, prescription medication, or nicotine patches to help. Acupuncture can also be helpful in reducing your reliance on nicotine, whether you want to quit short-term while you heal or quit for life. Your dentist and primary care provider will have more information on those and other effective methods you can try as well as where to go for those therapies and treatments in your area.
For more information about dental implants, contact a local dentist.