March 17, 2022
Medically Reviewed By Matthew T. Streelman, DDS, MD

blogimagesdentalimplants | mercer island oral & maxillofacial surgeryAdvances in technology and treatment protocols have made dental implants a durable, economical choice for dental restoration. When effectively placed and properly cared for, dental implants have an average success rate of 95% to 98% over ten years. However, that also means there is a small margin for implant failure. One factor linked to an increased risk of implant failure is smoking. Multiple studies have shown a failure rate of 6.5% to 20% for smokers.

How Does Smoking Affect Oral Health?

Smoking releases nearly 4,000 different gases and chemicals into the body. These toxins can easily enter the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth. Gases such as carbon monoxide decrease oxygen circulation to oral tissue and can cause cell damage. Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of periodontal disease, oral cancer, and peri-implantitis, which is an infection around your implant.

In addition, smoking can interfere with wound healing. During dental implant placement, an incision is made in the gums, and in some cases, tooth extraction is performed as well. The surrounding gum tissue must receive adequate blood and oxygen supply for healing, and nicotine may cause narrowing of your blood vessels, disrupting this process.

Smoking and Dental Implants

When it comes to dental implants specifically, research has shown that cigarette smoking may lead to complications with the long-term success of the implants. In many cases, osseointegration (fusion of the implant to the bone) still occurs, and the implant integrates with the jawbone, though the process may be slower. However, once the implant is exposed in order to attach the abutment and permanent tooth, there is a greater chance for periodontal disease and bone absorption. Bacteria growth and loss of bone around the implant caused by smoking may increase the risk of implant failure.

Patients who receive dental implants and smoke may also be more likely to develop peri-implantitis. This is a condition where bacteria cause an infection in the gums around the implant. This can lead to gum recession and deepening of the pocket where the implant was placed, as well as bone loss. As a result, the dental implant can loosen and fail if the condition is not treated.

Smoking can also reduce the amount of saliva you produce, leading to dry mouth. Saliva not only helps to keep your gum tissue and the lining of your mouth moist, but it helps to wash away bacteria, plaque, and food particles that affect dental health.

If a bone graft was used in conjunction with dental implants, smoking can also negatively impact bone healing. This is common for implants placed in the upper jaw due to the lower volume of bone near the sinuses. The toxins released from smoking can interfere with bone regeneration in this area.

Reducing Risk of Implant Failure

Being a smoker will not necessarily prevent you from getting dental implants, but there are steps that you can take to improve the outcome and reduce the risk of implant failure.

  • Be honest. Let your doctor know if you are a smoker and approximately how many cigarettes you smoke per day. Also, let them know if you have other health conditions and how they are managed.
  • Stop smoking. Ideally, quitting smoking is recommended, but at the minimum, you should stop smoking as soon as possible before implant surgery (at least one week prior) and for at least two to three months afterward.
  • Brush regularly. Taking care of your teeth following implant surgery is also important. You should continue to brush and floss the remaining teeth while being careful not to disturb the implant site. Once replacement teeth have been placed, daily brushing and regular cleanings and checkups are recommended to identify potential problems early on.

Just because you currently smoke, or used to smoke, does not mean that dental implants are not a viable option. Your doctor will work with you to understand your overall health, dental history, and smoking history. And they will work with you to create a more positive environment and recovery for dental implant placement.

Schedule a consultation at Mercer Island Oral Surgery today to learn more about how smoking can affect dental implants and how you can support better outcomes for your dental restoration.