Smoking and oral health
The mouth is the first point of assault during smoking or tobacco use. Smoking affects oral health from two angles. First, the smoke that is inhaled burns the oral tissues, which produces a keratosis. This is where the top layer of the skin cells thickens. Smoking blocks off or occludes and damages salivary glands and the result is mouth dryness. Additionally, nicotine and other by-products found in cigarettes affect the peripheral blood vessels that are in the mouth and the skin, causing them to clamp down reducing blood flow and supply to other areas.
Smoking affects the immune (defense) and healing mechanisms. The mouth dryness promotes an increased growth of disease-causing bacteria, which increases occurrence and severity of gum or periodontal disease. The long-term effects of smoking or chronic tobacco use include increased cases of cancer, cardiovascular, lung and metabolic disease.
Dental implants for smokers
Research and clinical experience has shown that the effectiveness of dental implants will depend on the properties of the titanium from which they are made as well as how well the jawbone joins with it. This process is known as Osseo-integration. Smoking immediately after the surgical procedure for implants leads to delays in healing and it increases chances of infection and implant loss. While it may not be an absolute contraindication, complications and risk for implant failure for smokers tends to be higher during the healing stage – this is usually the initial two to three weeks after implant placement.
The issue of bone loss
The effects of smoking on implants are not confined to the healing period. Research has shown that even after the healing the implants continue to be exposed to a dangerous environment. Smoking increases the rate of bone loss each year and this continues to deteriorate over time. Those with a history of smoking often experience inability to maintain Osseo-integration or the joining of the implant to the bone. Exposure to smoking causes bone loss around the dental implants, especially if there is infection and inflammation of the gum and the adjoining bone causing rapid implant loss.
How to reduce complications
There are some ways for smokers to minimize cases of complications and dental failure. If you decide to get dental implants to replace missing teeth, the first thing you should do is to quit smoking. Consider embarking on a program to help you kick the habit. If you find it difficult to quit completely, make sure that you stop a week before getting the implants and for two weeks after the surgical procedure. Make sure that you have good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly for checkups and maintenance.