Smoking – Not Age – A Key Factor In Dental Implant Success

added on: April 29, 2015

Dental Implants are nothing new, having first ‘formally’ emerged in the 1950’s. Over the past few decades, they have been perfected to provide a dependable tooth replacement system. There are now many types of Dental Implants, designed to accommodate various needs and preferences. While Dental Implants are designed to last a lifetime (having up to a 98% success rate), like anything that’s not a natural part of the body, there is a potential for failure.

Dental Implants are highly beneficial, restoring one’s natural ability to bite and chew comfortably. Because they recreate stimulation to the jaw bone like that of natural tooth roots, they also help to halt bone loss. This bone loss can contribute to the loss of neighboring teeth as well as changes in facial appearance. If you’ve seen someone with a mouth that seems collapsed into the face, this ‘granny look’ is a common result of bone loss due to missing tooth roots.

Any age can have a successful outcome with Dental Implants. Extended studies have shown that age is not a factor in implant success, with an equal success rate in younger and older patients. For example, a study of 133 adults over the age of 80 and having no teeth showed that the elderly patients had treatment results comparable to those achieved in younger age groups. The factors that enhance one’s potential to have a successful outcome, at any age, are having healthy gums and enough bone to hold the implant. Patients must also be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups.

What is a significant contributor to implant failure is smoking. Studies have shown that smokers have more calculus (tartar) than nonsmokers. Calculus is a cement-like buildup on teeth that is an intense accumulation of oral bacteria. When gum tissues are already battling a bacterial onslaught, their ability to accept Dental Implants and enable successful healing is not good.

In studies, smokers were 3 – 6 times more likely to have gum diseases than nonsmokers. Smoking dries out oral tissues in the mouth and decreases the production of saliva. Likely due to less saliva and constricted blood flow, smokers have less gum bleeding and redness. This can lead to the assumption that they have healthy gums. Smoking also hinders healing in your mouth, making treatment much more difficult.

To illustrate this point, one study found that smokers were twice as likely as nonsmokers to lose teeth in the five years after completing treatment for gum disease. Smokers also don’t respond as well to oral surgery treatments. Dental implants are much more likely to fail in people who smoke, because of poor bone healing.

Researchers who have studies how tobacco smoke affects oral tissues say it appears to interfere with the body’s natural ability to fight disease and promote healing. Apparently, smoking affects the way gum tissue responds to all types of treatment, possibly due to tobacco chemicals that interfere with blood flow to the gums. This slows the healing process and makes treatment results less favorable.

Pipe and cigar smokers and those who use smokeless tobacco are just as likely to have Dental Implant complications than those who smoke cigarettes. According to a study at Temple University, 18% of former cigar or pipe smokers had moderate to severe gum disease, three times the amount found in non-smokers.
Pipe smokers have rates of tooth loss similar to cigarette smokers.

The Surgeon General has good news for those wanting (or trying to) quit smoking. A recent study reported that people who had quit smoking 11 years prior had nearly the same rate of gum disease as those who never smoked.

Can’t quit? Reducing the amount you smoke can also make a difference. One study found that people who smoked over a pack and a half a day were 6 times more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers. Those who smoked less than a half pack per day had only 3 times the risk.

While every Dental Implant placed is intended to provide a successful outcome for a lifetime, and for all ages, those who smoke need to accept the risks for failure. The first step is a thorough evaluation of your gums and assessment of bone mass to support Dental Implants. From there, we can help you take the first step towards the ability to eat the foods you love and laugh with confidence! Call toll free 1-866-9-Smiles for an appointment.

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Dr. Ban R. Barbat

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