How Smoking Can Lead to Dental Implant Failure

By markplatt on June 05, 2014

An older couple with healthy smilesIf you’re a habitual smoker, there’s a good chance that at least one person has warned you about the dangers of cigarettes. At this point, most people are well aware of the health effects from cigarettes and other tobacco products, but when it comes to restorative dentistry, smoking poses a particularly noteworthy threat. Specifically, dental implants face an increased risk of failure in smokers, especially those who continue smoking throughout the implant process.

In order to give you the greatest chance of success with your dental implants, our Montgomery office wishes to convey the harmful effects of smoking before and after implant surgery. By understanding these risks and taking the appropriate precautionary measures, hopefully you can have a safe and healthy recovery.   

Smoking and Gum Disease

Even without dental implants, smoking is strongly correlated with an increased risk of gum disease. Exposure to tobacco and other chemicals found in cigarettes inhibits the health and regenerative qualities of gum tissue, resulting in the progression of gingivitis and possibly periodontitis. By itself, gum disease exposes patients to advancing bone loss, tooth decay, and a variety of more systemic health problems. When coupled with implant surgery, though, the dangers of gum disease are even more pressing.

After implants are installed, the surrounding gum and bone tissues needs time to heal. Initially, soft tissues require a few weeks to fully heal, while the jaw requires months to fully osseointegrate with implants. If gum disease is present, damaged tissues will not be able to regenerate around the implant and may even degrade further. Consequently, the implant will be unable to fuse with the jaw, and the procedure will fail.

Smoking and Infection

All surgeries pose some risk of infection, no matter how minute. In a healthy mouth with no disease and a strong immune system, dental implants very rarely present any type of infection after surgery. However, smoking reduces the body’s ability to efficiently recover, thus increasing the chance of developing an infection. This is especially true if patients smoke soon after surgery, thereby exposing their open wounds to harmful chemicals and bacteria. Even if the infection is caught early and antibiotics are prescribed, smoking reduces the efficacy of such medication, making the infection more difficult to treat.

Additional Effects of Smoking

Even if gum disease and infection are not present, smoking can greatly reduce one’s overall recovery time after dental implant surgery. Side effects of surgery and long-term healing will be prolonged by a compromised immune system, which is directly impacted by tobacco use.

Patients who quit smoking will almost assuredly benefit from an easier recovery, although the implant surgery itself may become more complicated from years of smoking. If a patient suffers from periodontitis, he or she will likely experience bone loss of the jaw, resulting in less room for implants to be installed. This may affect one’s candidacy for implants and require a bone graft prior to implant surgery.

Abstaining from Smoking

Before undergoing surgery, you and your dentist will need to discuss your history of tobacco use. If you have long since quit smoking, your chances of a successful surgery may still be very good. However, all patients will have to abstain from tobacco for at least the week before surgery and six weeks following surgery. For the best results and fewest chances of complications, patients are advised to quit smoking throughout the entirety of the recovery process.

Don’t Risk Your Implants

Successful dental implants are a months-long process that yields rewards for the rest of your life. Don’t sabotage your chances by smoking. For more information on dental implant surgery, contact our office to speak with one of our dental professionals.

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