Dental Implants

Dental implants and smoking

What smokers need to know about dental implants

Dental implants are a very popular treatment and while they are suitable for most dental patients with missing teeth, they may not be recommended for smokers. If you smoke, your dentist may advise you to quit before you have treatment or to consider other treatment options.

How does smoking affect implant treatment?

Smoking has a host of harmful effects on the body, including slowing the body's natural healing process. The success of implant treatment depends heavily on the ability for the dental implant to integrate into the bone tissue and as smoking slows healing time, this may cause problems for implant patients. Nicotine in cigarettes has been proven to reduce blood flow to the mouth and this means that the healing process is not as efficient as it would be in a non-smoker; this means that the chance of successful implant treatment in smokers is lower.

Smoking also increases the risk of gum disease; research suggests that smokers are between 2 and 3 times more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-smokers and a study conducted by Senerby and Roos revealed that dental implant failure rates were higher in smokers than non-smokers.

Smoking may also increase the risk of implant failure because it weakens the bone tissue; the jaw bone must be strong and dense in order to support and anchor the implant.

Is it possible for smokers to have dental implants?

Yes, it is possible for smokers to have dental implants; however, it is likely that patients will be advised to cut down on smoking, refrain from smoking during the recovery period when the implants are healing and try to quit smoking for good in the future. Heavy smokers may be advised against having dental implants because smoking increases the risk of implant failure and also contributes to a high risk of gum disease.

As the chance of successful treatment is higher in non-smokers, it is almost certain that dentists will try to get patients to cut down on the amount they smoke or give up completely; dental practices have access to resources and therapies to help patients give up smoking because smoking has a very negative impact on oral health. Possible therapies include nicotine replacement, group therapy and hypnotherapy.

The choice to give up smoking has to be made by the patient; a dentist cannot give up smoking for a patient and if they are determined to carry on smoking, they have to accept the risk that the implant may fail. It is particularly important to avoid smoking during the healing stage, which takes place after the implant has been placed in the jaw bone; healing takes around 3-5 months for a lower jaw implant and 6-9 months for an upper jaw implant.

Patients may assume that they can give up smoking for a short period of time before and during the treatment process and then start smoking again after treatment; however, this is inadvisable because smoking increases the risk of infection and it can still affect the bond between the implant and the bone tissue in the jaw. The advice from dentists is to try and give up for good.