People have been looking for ways to replace lost or damaged teeth for thousands of years with varying degrees of success. Fully functioning teeth not only make chewing and talking easier, but they also change the shape of your face, improve your smile, and are much more comfortable than bridges, dentures, or just going without.

Smoking Affect Dental Implants

(Pixabay / Kruscha)

History of Dental Implants

From copper pegs to seashells, animal tooth substitutes to using the teeth from other humans, people have been willing to try just about anything to have a full set of pearly whites. The problem was that the body often rejected implants that came from other material. It wasn’t until the 1950s that a Swedish scientist named Per-Ingvar Branemark made a discovery that would forever change the field of dentistry.

As he was researching how blood circulates through the body, he implanted tiny microscopes encased in a titanium coating into a rabbit’s leg. When he went to remove the microscopes, he discovered (much to his surprise!) that the rabbit’s body had not rejected the titanium in the slightest and had, in fact, bonded directly with the bone. He tested his theory on many more specimens and volunteers and found that the bones fused with the titanium without a hitch.

It wasn’t easy to convince the rest of the scientific community that his discovery was successful. In fact, it took until the 1960s for other scientists to give credit where credit was due. At that time, Branemark’s work helped a man born with a jaw deformity to receive his first set of working teeth – implants that functioned until he died in the mid-2000s.

Why Might You Need Implants?

You might need dental implants if you have sustained a traumatic blow to the mouth that loosened or knocked out some of your teeth. You might also need dental implants if you have had poor dental hygiene in the past, or your teeth developed deep cavities that required your whole tooth to be extracted. Sometimes teeth fall out due to the bone loss that is linked to old age, and other times untreated gum disease is the culprit.

Are they Foolproof?

Implants can be very effective, but they do not have a 100% guarantee for success. The leading causes of implant failure are linked to patient habits, the dentist’s experience, and where the implant is located. The last two reasons are mostly beyond your control, but the patient’s habits – AKA, your habits – are something that you can influence directly.
Within the “patient habits” category of implant failure, smoking is one of the most common causes of failure.

Harmful Effects of Smoking

While smoking makes you feel alert and calm, it also increases your blood pressure and heart rate. This can lead to all kinds of long-term problems such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, lung disease, low birth weight and higher numbers of stillbirth among pregnant women. Smoking also stains teeth and fingers, gives you bad breath, and lowers your ability to heal quickly.

Why Does Smoking Cause Implant Failure?

Science doesn’t point to just one reason why smoking can cause implant failure; instead, it indicates a combination of a few factors. One is that there is simply a higher rate of bone loss and gum disease associated with smokers. Implants require high-quality bone in order to grow together and stay in place. Another reason for failure is that the chemicals in the smoke lower blood flow to the mouth, which leads to a slower recovery. Additionally, people who smoke are more likely to develop an infection that can prevent the bone from grabbing onto the implant.

What Can You Do?

If you smoke but need dental implants, you may still qualify for the procedure. We strongly recommend quitting entirely, but we realize that quitting may not be possible for everyone depending on where they are in their lives. Your dentist will know your history and will be able to make a judgment call if they feel the implants would succeed.

If your dentist thinks that you are a good candidate for dental implants even though you smoke, they will most likely make a few requests before they carry out the procedure. They will probably ask you to quit smoking for at least two weeks before you are scheduled to receive implants. This will give your body a little bit of time to heal from the chemicals in the smoke, and it will encourage blood flow to the area. They will also likely ask that you refrain from smoking for at least eight weeks after the surgery so that you heal more quickly.

Smoking does not disqualify you from getting dental implants, but it can increase the risk of rejection and infection. Your dentist may give you some suggestions for quitting and will also know how best to help you prepare for this procedure.