Smoking, Oral Health and Dental Implants

Sep 25, 2022
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Not only does smoking threaten a person's overall health, but did you know it can lead to dental problems and damage dental implants? Continue reading to learn more about the effects of smoking on oral health and implants.

Smoking not only threatens a person's overall health but can also lead to dental problems and damage dental implants. Long-term use of tobacco and/or nicotine products can cause a host of issues such as tooth loss, gum disease, tooth staining and, in severe cases, mouth cancer.

How Does Smoking Affect Oral Health?

People who smoke are at risk of the following oral health problems:

Tooth decay: Nicotine tends to slow down the mouth’s ability to create saliva, which leads to dry mouth. Saliva washes away food and bacteria which helps prevent tooth decay. However, when the salivary glands don’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet, food remnants, bacteria and acids can remain on the teeth resulting in decay.

Gum disease: Gum disease is an infection that causes the gum to become swollen, sore, and bleed. It affects the structure that holds the teeth in place and can lead to teeth falling out. Smoking causes gum disease because it weakens the body's ability to fight infection, making it harder for gums to heal. Smokers are also more likely to produce plaque which leads to gum disease. 

Oral cancer: Smoking is one of the principal causes of oral cancer. Smoking makes you three times more likely to develop oral cancer than a non-smoker.

Tooth discoloration: Tar and nicotine in cigarettes stain teeth and can turn them yellow. This can happen quickly and last for years. Smoking can also lead to a dulled sense of taste and smell, lessening the enjoyment of food.

Bad breath (halitosis): Smoking is a common cause of bad breath, which is also known as "smoker's breath." 

Other common oral health problems affecting people who smoke are:

Leukoplakia, which is a condition where white patches form on the lining of the mouth, gums or tongue.

Complications following gum and mouth surgery and dental implant procedures.

How Does Smoking Affect Dental Implants?

According to studies, smoking is a significant factor in dental implant failure. The failure rate is higher in smokers than in non-smokers and is directly proportional to tobacco use. Your dentist may advise you to significantly cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke before having your implant procedure. So why is smoking a problem? There are several reasons.

  • Nicotine constricts blood vessels and reduces blood and oxygen flow to the mouth's soft tissues. This can slow down healing processes and impact the long-term health of gum and bone. 
  • Smoking impairs osseointegration, the natural process where bone cells attach themselves directly to the surface of implants. Essentially, this locks the implant into the jaw. It was discovered by a Swedish researcher in the 1960s who observed that living bone tissue could integrate with titanium.
  • Smokers tend to have poorer oral hygiene standards than non-smokers, which can lower the success rate of dental implant therapy.
  • When smoking affects the salivary glands, there is less saliva to wash away germs. Saliva also contains antibodies that fight bacteria. When there's less saliva in the mouth, the risk of infections at dental implant sites increases. 
  • Nicotine slows down blood and oxygen flow to implant sites, preventing proper healing.

How Smokers Can Lower The Risk Of Dental Implant Failure

If you are a regular smoker, there are some things you can do to help improve the chances of implant success following surgery:

Try to quit the habit altogether

Find a good cessation program and see a doctor about medications and products that can help you. If you cannot stop completely, try to significantly reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke.

If you are thinking of quitting smoking, here are a few tips that might help you:

  • Avoid triggers such as social situations where you and those around you usually smoke.
  • Remove cigarettes from your home, car and place of work.
  • Manage cigarette cravings by distracting yourself. For example, reduce the urge by going for a walk, calling a friend, doing the dishes or watching the TV. The activity doesn't matter as the idea is to take your mind off smoking.
  • Remind yourself of why you are quitting, such as improving your health and ensuring the success of your dental implants.
  • Find an oral substitute. Pop something else in your mouth when you have cigarette cravings, such as a carrot, chewing gum, mints or celery sticks.
  • Keep your hands busy by squeezing a small ball or playing with a pencil. Doing so will help you satisfy the need for tactile stimulation.

Brush and floss your teeth twice daily

 Keeping your mouth clean and healthy will go a long way to improving your chances of dental implant success.

Don´t make your dentist a stranger

 Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings to keep your mouth in tip-top condition.

What About E-Cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are marketed as a safer form of smoking than traditional cigarettes. However, the full impact on health is not known at this stage, but they're not risk-free. E-cigarettes have a small heating unit that vaporizes liquid, and while no smoke enters the mouth, steam containing nicotine is inhaled. Some side effects of e-cigarettes have been reported. These include throat irritation and dryness, which can hinder healing after dental implant procedures. 

Dental Implants At Chesterfield Dentistry

If you have any questions about smoking and dental implant success or want to schedule an appointment, please get in touch with Chesterfield Dentistry today. You can contact us at (314) 936 3621 or make a booking online.