Admittedly, I haven’t been to my dentist in a while. However, when I went back I expected him to give me the treatments I needed. Instead, I got a lecture and a denial. I’ve lost a couple of teeth recently and wanted to get dental implants to replace them. He told me because I am a smoker he can’t give them to me. I know other smokers and they have dental implants. I told him that and then he blamed my gums. I think this dentist just doesn’t like me. Can he deny me treatment like that? I’m sure I can find another dentist, but I’m just mad now.
I can tell you are frustrated and I’m trying to put the full picture together just based on your statement. It sounds like this is a combination of issues. You said your dentist blamed your smoking and then when you gave him a counterargument, he mentioned your gums. Granted, I was not there and didn’t hear the whole conversation, but there is a connection between smoking and your gums. I’ll go over that with you and then answer your question in case that isn’t what he meant and your first impression is right.
Smoking and Dental Implants
The nicotine in cigarettes restricts the blood flow in your gums. In some cases, smaller blood vessels will completely close off. The problem with this loss of blood flow is it reduces the oxygen to your oral tissues. When dental implants are placed in your jawbone, it is important that the bone integrates with the implant in order for it to remain secure. This process can take months. With restricted blood and oxygen flow, the healing process necessary for this to happen is slowed down dramatically and in some cases never happens at all, leading to dental implant failure.
A second issue is what that restricted blood flow does to your gums. One of the main symptoms of gum disease is inflamed and/or bleeding gums. Unfortunately, nicotine masks those symptoms, which means you can have gum disease and not even know it. Left untreated, it turns into advanced periodontal disease and you can even start losing teeth as a result.
It is possible you have reached this stage. You mentioned you had not been to the dentist in a while so you may not have known that you were dealing with gum disease. Obviously, I have not examined you and do not know if this was what your dentist was referring to, but it makes sense. Does that mean you cannot get dental implants? It depends.
Dental Implant Options as a Smoker
- If the issue is just you are a smoker, but your gums are healthy, then you could go forward with the dental implants as long as you acknowledge the risks and that you have a higher likelihood of dental implant failure.
- If you have gum disease you do need to address that before moving forward with dental implants. Otherwise, you will continue to lose teeth and your dental implants will fail. There are temporary replacements you can get while you get your gums healthy.
- You may want to consider quitting smoking, at least temporarily, to give yourself the best chance of success. Start a few weeks before the surgery and continue until your healing is complete.
- Look at alternative tooth replacements such as a dental bridge.
I hope this helps.
This blog is brought to you by Lexington, KY Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Fred Arnold.