Dental implants are an effective way of replacing missing teeth. An implant works by fixing a screw in the bone, which uses a connector device to fix on a permanent false tooth or bridge, giving a more stable build that may look more natural than other cosmetic dentistry treatments. Although effective, implants don't work for everyone. For example, if you're a smoker, your dentist may warn you that an implant is not guaranteed to work, as smoking may impair the healing process the treatment needs to be successful.
How Smoking Affects Implants
An implant's success depends on how well it integrates into the bone; it requires healthy bone and oral tissues that can heal and regenerate after treatment. Although implants may work for some smokers, this kind of treatment may have a greater chance of failure than with non-smokers, as smoking can compromise general oral health and healing during treatment. According to Tobacco in Australia, smoking can have various adverse effects on oral health, potentially causing problems with:
- The balance of plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
- Your mouth's ability to heal after dental surgery.
- The blood flow in soft tissues.
- Your bone's ability to heal and regenerate.
All these factors may reduce an implant's success rate.
Improving an Implant's Success
If you're willing to quit smoking, you greatly improve the treatment's chance of success, as well as your overall health. If you don't feel you can quit completely, giving up for a period before, during and after the treatment may help. Ask your dentist for advice on your current oral health, and discuss how smoking may affect the implant. Bear in mind that some dentists may refuse to proceed with an implant if you smoke at all.
Alternatives to Implants for Smokers
If an implant doesn't look like the best option, or if you aren't willing to try the treatment given its increased possibility of failure, consider other cosmetic dentistry solutions. Treatments such as dentures or bridges may not be as effective as a successful implant, but may work for you as an alternative:
- Dentures – You can fill missing single or multiple gaps with dentures. Although these aren't permanently fixed, they do fill gaps relatively effectively. They are also cheaper than implants and require less treatment time.
- Bridges – A bridge fixes the gap between teeth by attaching a crown or crowns to the teeth adjacent to the gap. Unlike dentures, this is a permanent solution.