Can I have Dental Implants?


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Almost everyone can be a candidate for dental implants. However, there are a number of lifestyle choices which may mean you are temporarily unsuitable for the treatment. If you are not suitable for treatment it is more likely that the implant will not be successful.

Osseointegration is an important process during dental implantation. It is the process through which the bone of your jaw grows around your implant, thus successfully fixing it in place. There is around a 5% chance that osseointegration will not occur and this will cause your implant to fail.

There are only a few medical reasons which prevent you having dental implants. The criteria are almost all lifestyle based. Often if you alter your lifestyle according to your practitioner's instructions you will eventually be able to undergo treatment. The following factors could, however, prevent you from having implants:

Smoking

Most dentists will actively avoid performing dental implantation on patients who smoke. If you are a smoker and want to receive treatment, you will probably need to quit smoking at least a month before the procedure.

There are a number of very good reasons for this. Firstly, the all-important process of osseointergration can be drastically slowed down if you smoke and may not even work at all. Secondly, smoking results in extended healing times for all kinds of treatment.  This means that the implant, and the area around it, will take longer to heal. You may also experience more pain from the procedure and this pain could last for a greater length of time if you smoke. It is also possible that the implant will never heal and this could leave you in constant pain, resulting in the removal of the implant. Thirdly, long-term smoking affects your bone density.  This could mean that your dentist will struggle to find suitable bone in your jaw to attach the implant to. If the implant fails to heal, you may experience nerve pain and have to have the implant removed.

Not all dentists will refuse treatment to smokers. Although the risk of failure is higher, it is possible that the procedure will be successful, especially if your dentist is very skilled. However, quitting smoking will substantially improve your chances and prevent any future harm to your body that smoking could cause.

High alcohol use

If your alcohol intake is high or you regularly drink to excess, it is likely that you will be denied treatment. It is important to be honest about your level of alcohol consumption because it can have a direct effect on your suitability for dental implants. Alcohol, like smoking, can seriously slow down your healing time which can result in an extended period of painfulness and a higher chance of failure. High levels of alcohol consumption have been shown to seriously retard the healing process of bone grafts which are sometimes necessary prior to dental implantation.

Gum Disease

Gingivitis and peridontitis are the two most common forms of gum disease. It is not unusual to be suffering from either of these conditions and you may not even know that you have them. However, gum disease is dangerous. It can gradually destroy the gums and even the bone beneath them. If gum disease destroys too much bone there will not be enough bone to attach your implant to. This will mean that you cannot have treatment.

Just having gum disease does not necessarily mean you cannot have dental implants, but your dentist will need to thoroughly investigate the state of your gums and jaw before giving you the go ahead. You will almost certainly be asked to get your gum disease under control before treatment, as a bout of gum disease could seriously complicate the healing process after your implant and lead to infection and failure.

Teeth Grinders and Clenchers

A 'bruxism' is the posh word for grinding, clenching or gritting your teeth together. With your real teeth, this is not an issue because the structure of your teeth allows them to absorb the shock created by bruxisms. If you are prone to grinding or clenching your teeth you may not be able to have dental implants because your new, implanted tooth will not have the structure which protects them from the pressure these actions produce. This will complicate the healing process and could damage your prosthetic teeth. This can be extremely expensive to repair.

The problem is not always as simple as simply quitting the habit as many people grit, clench and grind their teeth unconsciously or even in their sleep. One solution is wearing a special mouth guard made to wear at night.

Weakened Immune System

A weakened immune system, also known as immunocompromisation, can seriously compromise the healing process involved in the success of a dental implant. If you have a weakened immune system (immunodeficiency) you are more likely to contract an infection and less likely to recover from it. For these reasons it is not advisable to undergo any unnecessary medical treatment, let alone an invasive one like dental implantation. You may be immunodeficient for a number of reasons. These include:

  • A genetic immunodeficiency - You may have a birth defect which means that your immune system is very weak
  • Age – As you get older, your immune system can become weaker than it once was.
  • Disease – AIDs and cancer are just two diseases which will weaken your immune system, but there are a huge number of medical problems which have the same effect.
  • Transplants – If you are undergoing any kind of transplant, your immune system will need to be artificially weakened to ensure your body does not reject the new body part.

A weak immune system, however, will not necessarily bar you from having dental implants. Depending on the severity of your condition you may still be suitable for treatment. Be sure to discuss the possibilities thoroughly and honestly with your dentist and/or doctor.

Type II Diabetes

The poor blood circulation which is a symptom of type II diabetes can jeopardise your healing after a dental implant. It may mean that you cannot have treatment, however, discuss your options with your dentist as it may still be possible, despite carrying risks.

Bisphosphonate Medication

Bisphosphonate is a very useful drug used to combat both breast cancer and osteoporosis which, unfortunately, can have the side-effect of causing osteonecrosis. Osteonecrosis is a syndrome which can significantly delay healing. This means that a dental implant is much less likely to be successful.

Not all people who take bisphosphonate will develop osteonecrosis and it is entirely possible to receive dental implant treatment while taking the drug however it is not recommended. Most dentists will advise you to stop taking the medication before treatment and remain off it until your implant has fully healed. This is not always possible and you should never stop taking a prescribed drug without first consulting your doctor.

Unsuitable Bones

Determining the density and quantity of your bones is a key when deciding whether or not you are suitable for a dental implant. This is done by your dentist who uses dental X-rays and CT scans to investigate the character of your jaw bones.

You need to have the correct quantity and quality of bone for a dental implant to work. If you have too little bone, or if your bone is too weak, your dentist will not be able to secure an implant in it and you will be deemed unsuitable for treatment.

There are some treatments which can solve this problem but they are invasive and expensive. It is possible to undergo bone grafting, tissue regeneration and sinus augmentation in order to make your jaw suitable for dental implants.


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Guide to Dental Implants in London & the UK