Wait a Minute, Isn’t Smoking a Contraindication for Dental Implants?
It can be frustrating being a smoker who needs certain medical procedures but is continually turned away because smoking is a contraindication. However, you may be surprised to hear that smoking isn’t necessarily a contraindication for dental implants. According to a video by Dr. Anjali Amarnath, as long as smokers quit their habit for a short time after their surgery, they have a fairly good success rate. Take a look:
In the past, however, smoking was certainly a contraindication. It’s only because of the combined efforts of patients, dentists, and advanced technology that it’s now possible for successful dental implants. Because implants are more successful than they were before, it may be tempting for patients to continue their habit and flout their doctor’s instructions. This is a sure-fire way to ruin your chances of success. So you may be wondering why is smoking so bad anyway–why would stopping it for only a short while help? The site 123dentist.com has the answer:
Why is smoking bad for your oral health?
Decreased levels of oxygen in the blood leads to a weakened immune system and leaves your mouth vulnerable to infection. This means that bacteria found in your mouth can more easily build-up and infiltrate your gums. The bacteria can quickly destroy gum flesh, causing it to recede and become loose and unhealthy. The gums help to anchor teeth in place, so when their health is compromised teeth can become loose and potentially fall out. When gum disease progresses it can affect the bones and surrounding flesh, causing them to break down, too. Studies have shown that those who smoke are two times more likely to contract gum disease than those who don’t.
Because dental implants only work for those with strong gums and bones, smokers can’t afford to mess around after surgery. Even stopping for a week or two can help give your gums a breather to heal properly and take the implants. Doctors understand that kicking the habit is difficult–they are only asking patients to quit temporarily. However, an upcoming surgery could be a motivator to kick the habit altogether. For instance, 123dentist.com also says that quitting intermittently or covering up the issue with “band-aid methods,” like stronger toothpaste, isn’t going to fix long-term issues:
There are toothpastes and mouthwashes available on the market produced specifically for those who use tobacco products, however they are not nearly as effective at treating oral issues brought on by smoking as getting rid of the habit is. These products are generally more harsh and abrasive in an attempt to target destructive bacteria but they have no effect in restoring enamel, reversing tooth rot, root rot, gum rot, or preventing any kind of cancer. Read more here . . .
It’s an understatement to say that quitting smoking is daunting. But quitting is not impossible. Drbicuspid.com has some encouraging news about adults being able to quit:
CDC: Fewer U.S. adults smoke now than in 2005
The news is mostly positive, as the percentage of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 15.1% in 2015, and the proportion of those identified as daily smokers declined from 16.9% to 11.4%, according to lead author Ahmed Jamal, MBBS, and colleagues in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (November 11, 2016, Vol. 65:44, pp. 1205-1211).
“The [U.S.] Surgeon General has concluded that the burden of death and disease from tobacco use in the United States is overwhelmingly caused by cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products,” the authors wrote . . . Adults in the following categories also were more likely to smoke:
- Adults living below the poverty level
- Adults enrolled in Medicaid or who are uninsured
- Adults who have a disability or limitation
“. . . Proven population-based interventions, including tobacco price increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, antitobacco mass media campaigns, and barrier-free access to tobacco cessation counseling and medications, are critical to reducing cigarette smoking and smoking-related disease and death among U.S. adults,” the authors concluded. Read the full article here . . .
As you can see, the numbers don’t lie: people can kick this habit. While it is ultimately up to the patient to decide if he or she wants to quit, these results show that a good support system is invaluable to lifestyle changes. And because the data shows that those struggling with their finances may smoke more, it’s important for dentists to consider manageable payment plans so their patients can pursue implants.
Since Medicaid doesn’t cover implants, patients may be disheartened by their options. But dentists should be upfront about extractions and dentures–which are usually covered by Medicaid–that way patients know they have temporary options while they explore financing for permanent implants down the line.