Cigarette Smoking and Dental Implants: What You Should Know

Published by The Advanced Institute for Oral Health

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dental implants are one of the most important advances in dentistry during the past 40 years, providing patients with a comfortable, fully-functional, long-term alternative to dentures and bridges. Secured in your jaw bone, dental implants are designed to look and feel just like your own natural teeth, and they can be cared for like your natural teeth as well, with regular brushing and flossing and routine trips to the dentist to make sure the implant remains in optimal shape.

Still, while the artificial teeth that attach to implants may be impervious to decay, the implant posts still require healthy gums and jaw bones to provide them with proper support. Just like your own natural tooth roots, the posts that support dental implants need to be surrounded by healthy jaw bone tissue in order to avoid loosening and even falling out. And that means that, just like with natural teeth, it’s important to make healthy decisions that support those bones.

Does cigarette smoking harm dental implants?

One of the biggest questions many patients have about implants is whether or not cigarette smoking can be harmful to dental implants. The short answer is yes – and especially if you have bone graft placement to help secure your implants. Multiple studies have demonstrated the negative impact smoking can have on healing after all types of surgeries. In dental implant placement, smoking can inhibit blood flow to the bone and gum tissues surrounding the implants, making it much more difficult for the implants to fuse with the bone that supports them. In fact, a study from researchers in Spain that tracked the success rates of 165 dental implants over five years found almost 16 percent of dental implants failed in patients who smoked compared to only 1.4 percent in non-smokers.

And that’s not all: Because smoking restricts blood flow to gum tissues as well as bone, smokers are twice as likely to have gum disease as those who don’t smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and gum disease poses the same risks for implants as it does for natural teeth. It’s probably no surprise that the risks associated with smoking increase the more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you’ve been smoking.

Why is smoking so harmful to normal healing processes? Cigarettes contain many toxic chemicals that pose serious health risks. But the one element that potentially poses the biggest risk to healing and tissue health is nicotine. Studies have shown nicotine constricts blood vessels, which makes it much more difficult for oxygen and nutrients to reach areas where healing is needed. The effects of nicotine after smoking just one cigarette last for about four hours, which means for most smokers, their bodies are receiving an almost continuous supply.

Should you have dental implants if you smoke?

That’s largely a personal decision; obviously, quitting smoking is important for the health of your entire body, including your jaws, teeth and gums. If you smoke and you do decide to have dental implants, it’s extremely important to make sure you follow care recommendations closely, including learning – and using – proper brushing and flossing techniques and visiting our office twice each year for checkups and cleanings.

If you’re missing one or more teeth, dental implants are a great way to help you look and feel more confident, and with the proper care, they can be an important investment in your oral health. At the Advanced Institute for Oral Health, we can help you learn about the risks and benefits associated with dental implants and smoking so you can make an informed decision about whether or not they’re a good choice for your needs and your lifestyle. Call 615-370-9486 to schedule an appointment today.