Losing a tooth, or multiple teeth, is an extremely traumatic experience. Whether you suffer tooth loss in conjunction with illness or injury, the loss can leave you with a gap in your smile that impacts not only your appearance and your confidence, but also your ability to eat and in some cases, speak normally.
The good news is that there are solutions to restore your smile, return functionality, improve your appearance, and boost your confidence following tooth loss. The gold standard of tooth replacement is the dental implant.
While options like dentures and bridges are also available, dental implants that permanently affix to the jaw via a titanium screw that bonds with your jaw bone are really the best. Dental implants look and act the most like your natural tooth, which means you can eat, drink, brush, floss, smile, and laugh normally, without any fear of displacing less permanent replacement teeth.
In addition, the fact that the base of the implant bonds with your jaw in place of the roots of your tooth helps to reduce common problems like jaw bone recession and preserve the shape of your jawline. Of course, you have to be tested to ensure you’re a good candidate for dental implants, and this can be impacted by the use of tobacco products.
Can smokers qualify for dental implants or will you have to quit smoking to proceed? Here’s what you need to know if you’re currently a smoker in need of a dental implant.
Can Smokers Get Dental Implants?
In order to qualify as a good candidate for dental implant procedures, patients must first exhibit optimal oral health. In some cases, such as when tooth loss is related to conditions like gingivitis or periodontitis, you may first have to undergo treatments to eliminate infection, including cleaning by the dentist (in some cases deep cleaning) and perhaps the use of antibiotics.
In addition, your jaw bone has to be strong and healthy enough to support and bond with the titanium screw. If your jaw bone is too thin, there’s a possibility you could augment it through a bone graft procedure in preparation for the dental implant procedure. With or without such preparations, it could be at least several months or longer before the implant procedure is complete and you have your new tooth (crown) in place.
As for smokers, there are further complications. Tobacco use has been found to cause problems in all kinds of therapeutic oral procedures, including the installation of dental implants. Unfortunately, studies have shown that smokers are at higher risk of implant failure than non-tobacco users. As a result, many dentists won’t even offer this procedure to patients who persist in smoking or other forms of tobacco use.
There are several good reasons to quit smoking – chiefly to reduce risk factors for certain cancers, heart disease, and other diseases, of course, but also to improve lung function and overall health. Smoking also takes its toll on oral health.
You’re probably well aware of the fact that tobacco use can stain your teeth and cause bad breath, but it can also have more serious ramifications. It causes dry mouth, which results in less flushing by saliva, growth of bacteria, plaque, and tartar, and increased risk for the onset of gum disease and tooth decay.
Tobacco products, and particularly cigarettes, also inhibit your mouth’s ability to heal. When you inhale smoke, you singe the top layer of skin in your mouth, causing skin cells to thicken. Nicotine and other toxins also inhibit blood flow to tissues in the mouth, impacting healing.
This increases recovery following oral procedures, increases the risks for infection, and jeopardizes the process of osseointegration, by which the titanium screw implant bonds with your jaw bone to form needed support for your new false tooth. Studies show that smokers experience twice the failure rate for dental implants as non-smokers.
If you want the best opportunity to replace your missing tooth with a dental implant that lasts 20 years or more, you’re going to have to quit smoking to increase your odds of success. In truth, you may have to quit just to find a reliable dental professional willing to offer the service.
Whether you need to replace a missing tooth or you’re seeking cleaning or other dental services, you’ll find the caring and qualified dental professionals to serve your needs