Are Dental Implants An Option For Smokers?

by Andrew Mueller, DMD, MD | May 31, 2024

If you’re one of the approximately 28.3 million adults in America who smokes cigarettes, you’re almost certainly already aware of the numerous negative health consequences associated with this habit. Smoking is linked to higher rates of heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, immune system problems, arthritis, and many other health conditions. In addition, smokers also experience worse oral health outcomes than non-smokers and are prone to a wide range of oral health issues, including gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancer.

Bearing these facts in mind, it’s not surprising that many smokers require comprehensive oral health care, including tooth replacement solutions. Dental implants have become the gold standard for tooth replacement, but are full mouth or full-arch dental implants an option that is available to smokers?

At Doctors Implants, we’re frequently asked whether or not smokers can qualify for our groundbreaking same-day dental implant procedure (the 6 Hour Smile). The answer is yes. We have designed and successfully installed new smiles for many smokers over the years.

That being said, while being a smoker doesn’t automatically preclude you from receiving full mouth or full-arch dental implants, it does increase your likelihood of a sub-optimal recovery experience and the risk of complications post-surgery (including implant failure).

If you smoke, we highly recommend educating yourself about the negative impacts smoking can have on dental implants and the benefits of quitting smoking prior to receiving them. The information below offers an excellent starting point. To find out more about smoking and dental implants based on your specific situation, contact our office to book your free doctor’s consultation today!

Specific Risks of Smoking for Dental Implant Candidates

At Doctors Implants, we strongly encourage dental implant patients to quit smoking altogether prior to receiving their 6 Hour Smile. In lieu of that, we require patients who smoke to commit to stopping smoking for at least 1 week prior to surgery and 6 weeks after. 

Why are we so adamant about this? Because of the wealth of scientific evidence linking smoking to poor oral health outcomes, especially after surgery.

Smoking weakens the overall integrity of the jawbone and gums—the two structures that compose the very foundation of successful dental implants. Though our highly qualified and experienced doctors and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons possess the expertise to place implants even in complex cases where bone or gum tissue is compromised, this is not an ideal starting point for a robust healing process.

How exactly does smoking jeopardize gum and jawbone health? Let’s take a closer look:

Smoking and Gum Disease

Smoking is associated with increased plaque build-up, gum damage, and dry mouth (a condition in which the function of the salivary glands is impaired). All of these factors together dramatically increase the risk of periodontal disease (gum disease) in smokers.

Periodontal disease causes inflammation in the gums. It can also negatively impact the jawbone and contribute to the loss of natural teeth or implants.

Smoking and Jawbone Health

In addition to the risks to jawbone health associated with gum disease, nicotine also affects the body’s absorption of calcium and slows down the production of bone-forming cells. Overall, this can result in compromised bone strength and complications with osseointegration (the fusion of implants into the jawbone).

Mechanism of Impact

Now that we’ve seen some of the potential issues associated with smoking and dental implants, let’s explore a few of nicotine’s negative mechanisms of action in further detail:

Quitting smoking alleviates the risks listed above. The longer your body has been smoke-free before surgery, the more likely you are to experience a smooth and successful recovery process.

Pre-Implant Recommendations for Smokers

The best advice we can provide to smokers seeking full mouth or full-arch dental implants is to quit smoking entirely. That being said, we recognize that this may not be a feasible option for many patients.

If you do not plan to quit smoking, reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke per day can also offer a modest reduction in the risks associated with smoking and dental implants. A 2021 study found that a lower implant failure rate was found in patients who smoked less than 10 cigarettes per day versus those who smoked more than 10.

Stopping smoking at least one week prior to implant surgery is essential. At Doctors Implants, we’ve never turned a patient away due to bone loss—but preparing for implant placement with the healthiest mouth possible is still strongly recommended.

Speak with one of our experienced doctors for specific recommendations based on your personal needs and circumstances.

Post-Implant Care Specific to Smokers

It is crucial to avoid smoking in the 6 weeks following dental implant surgery. Refraining from smoking will put you on the best road to recovery and reduce your risk of future complications (see above). Enough said.

Statistical Data on Success Rates

A 2021 scientific review of studies exploring the link between smoking and dental implants concluded that, in smokers, implants have a 140.2% higher risk of failure than in non-smokers. Other studies and reviews that have also demonstrated a clear correlation between cigarette smoking and dental implant complications/failure include:

  • Smoking and Dental Implants (2012)
    • Among other things, this review concluded that implants placed in grafted maxillary sinuses fail twice as often in smokers than in non-smokers.

What To Discuss With Your Doctor

Hoping to receive full mouth dental implants despite the higher risks associated with smoking? Prepare for the most meaningful pre-surgery consultation possible in the following ways:

  • Be open and honest about the amount you smoke.
  • Share what you feel are realistic goals for cutting back and stopping smoking for a period of time surrounding your surgery.
  • Ask about your doctor’s level of experience working with smokers for implant treatment.
  • Discuss what to expect in the event that a complication or implant failure does occur.

Contact Doctors Implants for a Free Consultation

At Doctors Implants, our knowledgeable and compassionate team of doctors and support staff is here to provide top-quality, personalized care for each and every patient. We’re not here to judge your smoking habit, only to share the most current data with you and support you on your journey toward a brighter, more functional smile.

Ready to learn more about the 6 Hour Smile and how we can help you plan for the best outcomes regardless of nicotine use? Contact us today to book your free doctor’s consultation!

About the Author

Andrew Mueller, DMD, MD

Dr. Andrew Mueller loves being an oral and Maxillofacial surgeon. After completing both dental and then medical school, he did a general surgery residency and an oral/maxillofacial surgery residency (both at Parkland hospital in Dallas, Texas). He has performed countless general anesthetics in the operating room, learning how to safely put patients to sleep and wake them back up.

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