Dental Implants And Smoking
The use of dental implants for smokers and ex smokers
No matter how well you look after your teeth by brushing and flossing regularly, you still run a major risk to your oral health if you are a smoker. Although this may not be the popular habit that it once was, it still has many adherents, and it is estimated that there are still approximately 6.5 million smokers in the UK, despite the bans and publicity surrounding the harm caused by doing so.
There are probably many different reasons for people taking up smoking. These might include peer pressure (especially amongst the young), stress or even that they have tried it and enjoyed it. Whatever the reason though, smoking will almost certainly have a negative impact on your oral health.
Oral health issues caused by smoking
The most serious impact that smoking can have on your oral health is that it is a major contributor to mouth cancer. This can affect the soft tissues of the oral cavity and can cause significant problems with swallowing amongst other things. It can lead to facial disfigurement and, in some cases, can even prove to be fatal. When you see our Bedford dentists for your regular check up, they will check for potential symptoms of oral cancer and may refer you to your GP for further investigation if they detect any possible signs.
By far the most common problem that smoking causes from a dental perspective though is gum disease. Smoking can lead to infections of the gum, and periodontitis is not uncommon in smokers. In some cases, this advanced form of gum disease can lead to teeth becoming loose and eventually falling out.
Replacing missing teeth
If you want to replace any teeth that have been lost, there are three options available to you. These are dentures, a bridge or dental implants. There are pros and cons to each of these but it is now largely accepted that the closest thing to a natural tooth would be to replace it using a dental implant. These not only replace the crown section of the tooth but the root too. This provides the new replacement tooth with additional strength and stability and is becoming more and more popular with patients of The Dental Centre Bedford.
While most people are suitable implant candidates, there are a number of things that smokers should consider if they wish to have this teeth replacement procedure.
Bone density and dental implants
A common reason for tooth loss in smokers, and in those who suffer from periodontitis in general, is that the disease not only affects the gum, but also often attacks the supporting bone structure too. As this weakens and degrades, the bone is no longer able to securely hold the tooth in place and it gradually works loose before falling out. Some interventions such as root scaling, also called a ‘deep clean’ may save the tooth but this is by no means guaranteed. Once the bone is lost, there is every chance that tooth loss will soon follow.
This issue also causes a problem when patients want to replace the missing tooth with a dental implant. As this procedure involves placing an artificial tooth root into the bone, this can be a real problem. There are treatments available which can help us to place a successful implant where bone loss is an issue and these include bone grafts or sinus lifts. These are extra to the implant placement process though and add both time and expense to your treatment.
Whether you have these or, where the tooth loss has been caused by another issue and the bone remains healthy, there are ongoing concerns about placing implants for current smokers as we will now see.
Smoking and its impact on success rates
You might think that being a smoker would have little or no impact on an artificial tooth replacement but you would be wrong. If an implant is placed into healthy bone and is looked after correctly, the success rate is very high indeed and you might expect fifteen years and often more from your new implant. If you continue to smoke though, this is highly unlikely to be the case.
As we mentioned earlier, smoking is a significant contributor to periodontitis and this can impact the bone whether a natural tooth or a dental implant is present. If the bone degrades, your implant may become loose and ultimately fail.
Another related issue is peri-implantitis which is similar to periodontitis but is specific to dental implants and affects the soft tissue surrounding the implant. Again, if this is not treated, the implant is likely to fail.
If you choose to continue to smoke after having dental implants placed, you are unlikely to get the benefit from them that non smokers will.
Finally, a plea to our Bedford patients who currently smoke. Aside from the cost and other smoking related health issues, doing so is a disaster for your oral health. There is now more help available to stop smoking than there ever has been and we recommend that you look into this further. Not only will your general and oral health benefit, but your pocket too. You can find local NHS help at https://www.nhs.uk/services/service-directory/central-bedfordshire-stop-smoking-service/N10981916 .
If you would like to discuss the possibility of having teeth implants placed with us, we are happy to offer help and advice. Please contact us for a preliminary consultation by calling The Dental Centre Bedford on 01234 819868.