If you are looking to get dental implants soon, your dental provider may ask if you are a smoker. It is not a secret that smoking is bad for your health, and while we recommend that you quit smoking, sometimes a smoking addiction is harder to kick than simply choosing to quit. In fact, smoking may be one of the reasons why you need dental implants in the first place. So, what should you do? The most important step is to understand the risks, health concerns, and mitigation techniques you can use to ensure that, despite your smoking habit, you can still receive effective dental implant care.

Dental Risks of Smoking

There are multiple risks to smoking that should serve as an encouragement to quit whenever possible.

Periodontal Disease

Even a light smoking habit is linked with an increased risk of periodontal disease. Smoking upregulates the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1, which contributes to increased tissue damage. Recent research studies have shown that periodontal disease can worsen chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses.

Oral Cancer

It has been well documented for decades now that smoking can cause cancer. Tobacco smoke, especially from filtered cigarettes, is full of burned chemicals known as “carcinogens,” which refers to chemicals that promote the growth of cancerous cells. However, did you know that smoking can give you cancer of the mouth in addition to an increased risk of lung cancer? Mouth lesions and cancerous sores can cause serious dental complications.

Quality of Life Loss

Smoking can affect your oral quality of life in multiple ways. The taste of various foods can be affected, and there can be a severe yellowing of gums, soft tissues, and teeth. These symptoms can lead to a loss of self-confidence, and it can ruin your enjoyment of food and drink. In addition, smoking can increase the risk of dry socket after implants or other dental work, which can be incredibly painful and lead to further dental problems.

Risks of Smoking for Implants

Smoking also causes a specific risk for dental implant procedures. These problems can harm the implant’s ability to anchor correctly and affect your quality of life during and after the healing process. For an implant to succeed, a number of factors must be correct, and smoking is associated with a higher cluster of risk factors that cause implant failure. It is one of the primary patient-centered risk factors for implant loss.

Smoking Harms the Surrounding Gums and Bones

After receiving an implant, the gums and bones need to heal quickly and integrate correctly. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it reduces the capability of blood to flow correctly. In addition, nicotine is known to cause, or at least increase the risk of, developing a disease called “peri-implantitis.” Peri-implantitis is a disease of inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding a recently installed implant. Smoking burns the oral tissues and glands around the gums, and this can cause mouth dryness and eventually gum decay.

Nicotine Slows Healing and the Immune System

Because smoking is a vasoconstrictor, it ultimately reduces the speed of oral healing. Less blood means fewer nutrients to the area, which means slower cell growth. Healing is, at its core, cells growing back where they were destroyed or cut out before. If there is less blood bringing fewer building blocks for cell growth, there will naturally be less cell growth. This is not to say that smoking will stop the healing process entirely, but you can expect a longer healing process and more discomfort if you maintain a smoking habit.

Tobacco and Nicotine Harm the Ability of the Bone to Fuse with the Implant
Though tobacco smoke and nicotine do not affect the exact mechanism of osseointegration (bone fusing to the implant), the myriad effects of smoke do slow down the process. From the loss of blood flow to the possible exposure of socket tissue to tobacco smoke, the process of bone integration can be negatively affected by smoking. This is in addition to the healing of soft tissues. Overall, smoking makes an implant’s success significantly less likely.

How to Mitigate Smoking Risks

If you are set on maintaining smoking or perhaps are having trouble quitting smoking but still need dental implant procedures, the following tips can help you.

Reduce or Quit Smoking Temporarily

It is not likely that you can quit smoking on command. However, if you can reduce or eliminate smoking for at least 1 week before implant surgery and at least 1-2 months after receiving implant surgery, the risks of smoking can be mitigated. An implant is significantly more likely to succeed if it is not exposed to the negative effects of smoking during the most vulnerable period immediately before and after surgery.

Maintain Good Dental Hygiene

If you are smoking during the important healing period after receiving an implant, it is even more important to maintain a proper brushing and flossing routine. Even better if you use an electric toothbrush and water pick to ensure proper tooth care.

Visit Your Dentist More Often

If you are worried about the success of your dental implant, there is no better alternative than visiting your oral surgeon or dentist and receiving professional care. Consult your dental provider often in the few months after receiving a dental implant, and make sure to go twice yearly from then on.

Contact Coastal Virginia Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, VA to learn more about dental implants.