Designed to last a lifetime, dental implants have a long-term success rate over 95%.
But their long-term survival requires a continuously healthy environment for your gum tissue and jawbone surrounding the implants. Although implants have a low failure rate, more than half of the failures occur in smokers. Smoking may not disqualify you from getting dental implants, but it can impact the short- and long-term results. We will explain seven ways that smoking can affect your implants and how you can contribute to a successful outcome.
Why Does Smoking Affect Implants?
Smoking affects dental implants because nicotine and its byproducts narrow the blood vessels in your mouth. Constricted blood vessels have these effects:
- Decrease blood flow to oral tissue
- Obstruct the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissue cells
- Slow the healing process
Your jawbone will become the foundation for your dental implants. However, smoking can weaken the foundation, and your jawbone will not fuse to the implants in a process called osseointegration. The resulting complications will affect the outcome.
How Does Smoking Affect Dental Implants?
Smoking affects dental implants by weakening your gum and bone health. Consider seven ways that smoking impacts your oral health.
1. Disrupts Salivary Gland Function
Smoking damages your salivary glands and affects your salivary flow rate. And disease-causing bacteria thrive in a dry mouth. According to The Journal of Dental Research, Dental Clinics, Dental Prospects, oral conditions that are significantly higher in smokers and can affect dental implant health include:
- Loose teeth
2. Increases Postoperative Symptoms
It is common for your body to react to oral surgery; it is part of healing. But smoking can worsen some postoperative symptoms. The November 2020 issue of The Saudi Dental Journal published results of a study on the effects of smoking on postoperative complications after minor oral surgery. The findings show that during the week after oral surgery, specific signs and symptoms were higher among smokers, including:
- Postoperative pain
- Bleeding events on the first postoperative day
- Facial swelling
3. Postoperative Infection
The Academy of Osseointegration confirms that smoking after dental implant surgery can “delay healing and increase the chance of infection, leading to early implant failure.” Smoking increases the risk of infection because nicotine narrows the blood vessels in your mouth and reduces blood flow. Lack of blood flow affects your immune system, preventing white blood cells from fighting off bacteria and infection.
4. Promotes Long-Term Gum Disease
As nicotine and its byproducts disrupt the healthy function of gum tissue cells, your gums can loosen from your dental implants and bone. The results of unhealthy gum tissue can make it challenging to place dental implants or retain them after implant surgery. Smoking before or after receiving dental implants has these effects:
- Risk of gum diseases increases
- Rate of healing decreases
- Implant instability is more likely
Also, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article on smoking and gum disease cautions that the more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you smoke increase your risk for gum disease. Also, the severity of gum disease is usually higher among smokers than nonsmokers.
5. Accelerates Bone Loss
Dental implants fail when they cannot integrate with the surrounding bone tissue. And smoking impairs bone healing. An October 2018 article in the Journal of Oral Implantology published study results on bone loss around dental implants in aging patients. Bone loss was greater in patients who were smokers versus nonsmokers because as we age, oxygen and blood supply to our bone decrease and tobacco chemicals contribute to the problem.
Also, a recent study in The Journal of Oral & Maxillofacial Implants shows that smoking increases the rate of bone loss around dental implants by 0.16mm yearly. Although the yearly bone loss may seem minimal, it can gradually cause loose or failed implants.
6. Increases the Risk of Peri-implantitis
Peri-implantitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the gum and bone tissue around dental implants. The American Academy of Periodontology confirms that smoking is a top factor for developing peri-implant disease.
The progression occurs in stages:
- A buildup of bacteria can form around the implant base.
- The bacteria irritate and inflame gum tissue.
- Without treatment, the damaged gum tissue will break down and destroy bone tissue.
7. Contributes to Implant Failure
Dental implant failure can occur during any stage, from recovery to months or even years after implant placement. If the gums and bone tissue around an implant are not healthy, the implant can fail. Smokers have significantly higher rates of bone loss around dental implants and implant failure.
Causes Of Dental Implant Failure
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, short- and long-term dental implant failure have specific causes:
- Short-term implant failure – Low bone density, uncontrolled diabetes, or smoking can prevent the jawbone and implant from fusing and healing.
- Long-term implant failure – After a dental implant and your jawbone fuse, a bacteria buildup around the implant can cause chronic inflammation or peri-implantitis. Untreated peri-implantitis infects gum tissue and eventually destroys the bone, leaving the implant without support.
Increase Your Success with Dental Implants
If you are a smoker, you can reduce the risks and increase the success of your dental implant surgery with these steps:
- Stop smoking at least two weeks before your surgery. Your oral surgeon may recommend an earlier date.
- Plan to stop smoking entirely to support the longevity of your dental implants.
- Develop excellent oral hygiene habits, including brushing twice daily and flossing daily.
- Keep your dental exam and cleaning appointments to detect any issues with your implants.
Smoking affects dental implants—during and after your recovery. Studies show that nicotine and other tobacco byproducts affect your gum and bone health, weakening the foundation for your dental implants. Although smoking does not mean that you cannot get dental implants, breaking the habit supports a better outcome.
Are You a Smoker and Interested in Dental Implants?
If you live or work in the Baltimore area and are interested in dental implants, schedule a consultation with Maryland Center for Oral Surgery and Dental Implants. Our oral surgeons have provided dental implants to improve the quality of life for thousands of people with a long-term success rate of 98%.
During your consultation, one of our highly experienced oral surgeons will evaluate your medical history and oral health to determine whether you are a candidate for dental implants. And they will explain what you can do to contribute to the success of your dental implants. Call us today.