Stopping smoking before implant placement

Can e-cigarettes imporve dental health in readiness for dental implants?

A lot has been written about smoking over the last century or so; from the recommendations of smoking by doctors as an aid to relaxation in the early days, to the restrictions in the marketing of them more recently as cigarettes are seen to be extremely bad for health and will probably be a thing of the past, in the west anyway, in the next 50 years or so.

Naturally, because even those who have stopped smoking often remark how they miss it despite the health risks, it was only a matter of time before entrepreneurs looked into ways of tapping into this vast market. Then, around ten years ago, we saw the introduction of the e-cigarette. This substitute offered either tobacco flavoured vapour to inhale or even fruit or mint flavours. Whether it will remain a small market or become as huge as cigarettes remains to be seen and there have been many arguments about the benefits and risks of them. One of the risks of smoking is an increased risk in oral cancer, one that doesn’t get the publicity of lung cancer but is significant anyway. The first signs of this are often spotted during a routine check up at the dentist who is trained in the early detection of oral diseases. It is probably fair to say that swapping from smoking to an e-cigarette reduces the risk but is there a risk in smoking e-cigarettes? Whilst these do not contain many of the toxins that regular cigarettes do, they do contain some chemicals and most, of course, still contain nicotine as that is the addictive part of the attraction of smoking.

Ignoring the other chemical elements of an e-cigarette, it has been shown in a number of studies that nicotine alone has the potential for harm to the oral tissues including the gums which are so important for our dental health. Nicotine is thought to cause a dryness of the mouth which means that the mouth has more difficulty in ridding itself of the bacteria that if left untreated, will cause both halitosis and gum disease. Nicotine also acts to restrict the flow of blood to the mouth area which causes a reduction in the ability to fight bacteria and to heal any wounds efficiently. This is especially important for those patients who have had dental implants placed. All good dentists will insist on their patients stopping smoking either side of a dental implant being placed as smoking greatly increases the risk of failure of the procedure for this very reason.

It seems that swapping to an e-cigarette may not be the answer that many smokers had hoped for. So, whilst an e-cigarette may prove to be better overall for your general health, it can still have consequences for your oral health and may prove not to be the panacea that many have hoped.