Dental implants have a 97% success rate, judging by most studies. That’s pretty amazing that we now have options to predictably replace lost teeth.

With that being said, do you want to know the easiest way to destroy the success rate of dental implants? Cigarette smoking

Smoking and dental implants go together about as well as an ocean and an oil spill. They don’t mix very well.

Why You Shouldn’t get Dental Implants If You Can’t Quit Smoking

In a previous article about smoking after tooth extractions, I took a passive standpoint. That was for good reason. And although, I’m not going to shame you for smoking, let’s face it, dental implants are an investment. There’s some hard facts you need to know before jumping in to dental implants if you are a smoker.

If you’re a smoker, you’re obviously not alone. Studies estimate that at least 14% of people are smokers. Here’s the thing. There’s a key difference between tooth extractions and dental implants. With tooth extractions it’s usually a treatment that’s needed suddenly. There’s not much time quit smoking. And even if you tried, its hard for it to stick when you’re not doing quitting on your own terms. That’s understandable.

The treatment of dental implants is a different story. You have time to prepare for them. If you’re considering dental implants, you should consider smoking cessation prior to implant surgery—at the very least, for a timeframe around the surgery. We’ll discuss more on that later.

You’re going through the financial investment and the investment of time to heal, so why would you decrease your chance of success?

Smoking is one of the biggest factors we can control that decrease the success rate of dental implants. When I say decrease the success rate, most studies support that 2 to 3 times more dental implants will fail for an active smoker compared to a non-smoker.

How Smoking Affects Dental Implant Healing

smoking and dental implants how it affects healing

So what is it about smoking that’s the problem with dental implants? There are a few key concepts that affect the success rate. Let’s look at a few now:

  • Nicotine, chemicals, and heat from smoking products dehydrates the tissues of the mouth which makes the gums heal less successfully and decreases saliva flow which inhibits the body in eliminating periodontal bacteria.
  • Smokers who receive implants are much more susceptible to bacterial infection during and after dental implant surgery.
  • Smoking decreases the success rates of bone grafts, which are sometimes required for a patient to receive dental implants.
  • The incidence of peri-implantitis after implant placement is much higher among smokers.

Not all is Lost: How to Get Dental Implants If You are a Smoker

And now that you’ve heard why smoking and dental implants don’t mix well, it’s time for the big question: Can you get dental implants if you are a smoker? The answer fortunately is yes, but with some caveats and recommendations. Here’s what you need to know for success.

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Your dental implant specialist will evaluate the site where you are considering replacing your teeth. For a patient with a long-term history of smoking it’s important to ensure there is enough healthy bone in the area receiving the dental implant. The site receiving the dental implant should not be borderline, as we are anticipating that the bone may have a slightly compromised healing response. If the dental implant specialist feels that you are a candidate, that is a huge step forward. What happens next depends on you.

Here’s what you can do to help increase your chances of successful dental implants:

  1. Plan to Stop smoking prior to surgery. I don’t just mean say you’re going to stop and when you’re scheduling the dental implant surgery, I mean focus on quitting first. Plan to think about what will work best for you to quit. Maybe it’s a nicotine patch, a medication like Chantix, or maybe for you its cold turkey. Create an action plan with your primary care physician and then test the plan. Be sure that smoking cessation is something you are ready to undertake and move forward with it. The goal from the dental implant perspective is to avoid smoking for at least two weeks before implant placement to allow your body’s immune system to rebound. Nicotine affects the cardiovascular system. Smoking decreases oxygen to the tissues and affects the blood cell counts. By allowing two weeks of smoking cessation prior to dental implant surgery, you are increasing your healing ability and your ability to prevent infection.
  2. Avoid smoking for at least eight weeks after surgery. The first 8 weeks after dental implant surgery are most critical for success. During those 8 weeks, the dental implant integrates with the jawbone to be accepted like a natural tooth. The implant success is most critical during this phase to prevent it from being rejected by the body.

Smoking Cessation and Dental Implants: Why Stop There?

smoking and dental implants is a great first step to smoking cessation

It’s clear the studies show that smoking affects the success of dental implants. If you are now considering smoking cessation prior to dental implants, that is a path that will increase your chances for success. However, it will also open your chances for numerous other health benefits including cardiovascular and psychological improvement. So why not consider quitting for good?

If you have been a smoker for many years and are considering quitting, speak with your primary care physician to have assistance for making the process easier or visit public health organizations for more resources.