Smoking and dental implants: why the two do not mix
While significant progress has been made in the field of dental implants, some patients really seem to believe that their dentist is a miracle worker! However, gratifying it is to be granted this kind of status, it is essential that individuals realize that -to a large extent – the health of their teeth and mouth lies very much in their own hands. Sometimes it is necessary to remind the patient that his or her behaviour can massively influence the outcome of a procedure and this is never more true than when implants are involved.
Ideally, implants should restore your missing teeth and allow you to eat and smile with confidence for years to come. Before investing a great deal of time and money by committing to implant surgery, it is absolutely essential you understand what is involved and how your actions can affect long term success or you may find yourself in a worse situation as little as five years down the road.
With the planning of any treatment, both dentist and patient must agree on a programme of treatment, pin-pointing any potential pitfalls associated with damaging habits and behaviour. The dentist will explain what is expected of the patient in terms of care and co-operation and this is especially relevant when it comes to smoking habits.
An implant is surgically placed into the bone and acts as a substitute for the root of the missing tooth and as an anchor for a replacement tooth. The bone around the implant heals and bonds to the surface of the implant making it part of your body, a process known as osseointegration.
An implant is considered to be osseointegrated if it provides stable and apparently immobile support to a prosthesis under functional loads without causing pain, inflammation or loosening over the lifetime of the patient. If this is not the case, then the implant is considered to have failed or be failing.
A commonly believed myth is that dental implants are suitable for everyone; they are not. Extensive meta-analysis studies published in the 1990s highlighted that a wide range of host factors can contribute to the biological failure of the implants
One significant detrimental factor was smoking: it is generally accepted that smoking will inhibit the tissues’ healing responses around the implants and hence impact negatively on their survival. In general, smokers showed approximately twice the number of failures to that of non-smokers.
In order to reduce the chances of failure, smokers would be best advised at least to reduce their cigarette consumption before undergoing surgery and maintain this reduction for some time. In addition, the patient should bear in mind that rigorous oral maintenance and hygiene are essential to ensure that plaque accumulation – which can result in more long-term failure – does not occur.
Like most scientific developments, implants can be wonderful things, but there is never a “one size fits all fix” and human biology and behaviour will always influence the final results.