Bad Company: How Smoking Affects Dental Implants

January 21, 2014

More secure than removable dentures and more conservative than bridgework, dental implants offer a stable and long-lasting solution for replacing missing permanent teeth. However, several factors can influence your candidacy for the procedure. Most implants dentists hesitate to place implants in patients who smoke or use chewing tobacco, due to the serious complications that can occur. Today, we’re taking a look at two ways smoking can interfere with dental implants and how kicking the habit can help you qualify for this exceptional tooth replacement procedure.

Smoking and the Healing Process

To place dental implants, an implant dentist, oral surgeon, or periodontist must first surgically place the implant posts into the jaw. The success of any surgical procedure, no matter how minor, depends on proper healing and proper healing depends on the healthy interaction of several types of cells. First, white blood cells invade the surgical site and defend it against bacteria and other microorganisms that can create infection. Next, the white blood cells stimulate the growth of fibroblasts. As fibroblast cells divide, they fill in the wound and create pathways for healthy blood flow, which serves to further heal and close the site.

Smoking interferes with healing in two ways. First, smokers and chewers have smaller blood vessels, meaning that adequate blood flow cannot reach the surgical site. Second, tobacco users have a lower oxygen level, which further slows the healing process. Although smokers will eventually heal, the longer the process takes, the higher the chances of a problem, such as inflammation or infection occurring around the implant post.

Smoking and Gum Inflammation

Smokers who cut down or quit smoking prior to an implant procedure but who pick the habit back up afterward have a higher chance of developing peri-implantitis. Similar to gum disease, peri-implantitis refers to inflammation of the tissues surrounding a dental implant post. Smoking interferes with the body’s immune response, meaning that the gums cannot overcome the inflammation in a healthy way. Peri-implantitis usually results in implant failure, requiring removal of the implant post, bone and tissue grafts, and re-implantation of the post.

Kick the Habit, Enjoy a Healthier Smile

Quitting the use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco will help you enjoy fresher breath, whiter teeth, healthier gums, and better overall oral health. In fact, if you quit early in life, you may never find yourself in need of dental implants. However, if you’ve already lost one or more adult teeth and would like to pursue dental implants, take the steps needed to kick the habit.

About Brad Greenfield, DDS

Dr. Brad Greenfield practices family, restorative, cosmetic, and sedation dentistry with a holistic approach to patient care and comfort. To schedule an appointment at our Lake Orion, MI dentist office, call (248) 693-6213. We proudly serve patients of all ages in Clarkston, Auburn Hills, Oxford, Rochester Hills, and neighboring communities.


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