Cheers To A Confident Smile – Navigating Alcohol And Dental Implants

Nov 03, 2023
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Let’s face it, many of us like the occasional drink but when it comes to alcohol and dental implants, are they really that bad for one another? Let’s find out.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing better than a glass of wine with a great meal or a couple of beers on a Friday evening to unwind. Taken in moderation, alcohol can make you feel more relaxed, and confident and could be considered as one of life’s little pleasures.

However, when someone undergoes dental implant surgery, it can (and does) impact what they can eat and drink. Therefore, the relationship between alcohol and dental implants is often portrayed as difficult, to say the least.

But are they really that bad for each other?

Let’s find out…

The problem with alcohol, particularly with dental implants, is that it’s a toxin. So, when it’s consumed at the wrong time, particularly in the early stages of an implant-based restoration it can increase the risk of complications.

Here’s why?

Alcohol can interfere with the healing process

The first 48-72 hours are crucial after dental implant placement because the body needs to rebuild tissue, blood vessels and bone cells. Unfortunately, because alcohol is a toxin, it can interfere with one or more of the four biological processes associated with healing. These are:

  • Hemostasis – The cessation of bleeding
  • Inflammation – The activation of the body’s immune system
  • Proliferation – The formulation of new connective tissue and blood vessels
  • Remodeling – The formation of new bone tissue and wound contraction.

Under normal circumstances, these four phases must occur in sequence, and at a specific time to achieve optimal healing. However, when alcohol enters the equation, it impacts the brain’s neurotransmitters which orchestrate each of these processes. Doing so can throw these four biophysiological functions into kilter.

The results can be:

  • A failure or delay of new blood vessel formation, or a
  • Failure or delay of bone remodeling cells (osteoblasts), required to grow new bone.

Either way, any alcohol consumption during the very early stages of the procedure can be problematic for the healing process.

Moreover, alcohol consumption can also trigger a condition known as avascular necrosis (AVN). Although rare, AVN cuts off the blood supply to bone cells, causing the bone to wither and die. That’s not ideal when you want to encourage new bone growth to provide both stability and anchorage for a dental implant.

Alcohol also causes dry mouth

Typically, the mouth contains millions of bacteria and it’s our saliva that helps to keep harmful germs in check. When we drink excess alcohol, it dehydrates the kidneys causing them to expel more water than usual. This triggers dehydration throughout the body and one of these side-effects is a decrease in saliva production. When less saliva is produced, the bacterial balance within the mouth is compromised.

Because newly placed dental implants are at risk of infection,  implant placement into mouths where saliva is reduced can be problematic.

Alcohol heightens sensitivity

Many people are under the impression that alcohol numbs pain or discomfort and this is true to a certain extent. Inebriation can, indeed, confuse the nervous system sufficiently so that pain signals might be misinterpreted.

However, at intoxicating levels, alcohol can also cause blood vessels to dilate in a condition known as vasodilation. While vasodilated vessels provide greater oxygen delivery to the implant site, it can also mean heightened sensitivity in and around the gums. Therefore any discomfort, particularly in the first few days after implant placement, may be increased after drinking alcohol.

As you can see, the association between alcohol and dental implants can be a strained affair, particularly in the first days and weeks after surgery.

However, is it really that bad? Is alcohol really a no-go area?

Here’s the rub…

Knowing what we know, implant patients should refrain from drinking any type of alcoholic beverage for the first 7 days. Most dentists will tell you 72 hours, but this depends upon the complexity of the surgery involved. Increased surgery usually relates to increased healing time, so the longer you can go without consuming that first glass of wine, the better.

However, once the implant site has healed (typically 1-2 weeks) there’s no reason why you can’t have that celebratory beer or gin and tonic. As a safe measure, if you stick to the guidelines laid down by the CDC, you shouldn’t have a problem.

So what about heavy drinking?

Heavy drinking or binge drinking is particularly bad for the long-term effects of dental implants and should be avoided at all costs because sustained alcohol consumption leads to bone loss.

How come?

Over time, alcohol can inhibit the natural generation of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important factor in bone health and a lack of it can impact bone density. Because dental implants need quality bone to anchor into, minimal or poor bone can cause stability issues, and even, implant failure.

Alcohol vs dental implants - a recap

  • Essentially, patients are advised not to drink alcohol within the first week after dental implant surgery to allow time for the healing process to occur.
  • In most cases, safe or responsible drinking after implant site healing should not cause an issue.
  • Heavy or sustained periods of alcohol, however, can trigger bone loss and should be avoided where possible throughout the life of your implants.

Abide by these rules and the difficult relationship between alcohol and dental implants should never be a problem.

At Chesterfield Dentistry, we know that replacing missing teeth with dental implants is a huge decision, so we want to ensure you have all the necessary information before you take the plunge.

This is why we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr Akinwande and her team. They’ll ensure that all your questions and concerns are answered so you can make a fully informed decision.

Contact us today to find out more about whether dental implants are right for you.