If you're investigating dental implants as an option to replace missing or damaged teeth, you should be aware that there are a number of medical disorders that interact with these implants and may cause problems. Read on to learn more about the effects of various autoimmune diseases, cancer treatment, and osteoporosis on dental implants, and what you should know before making a dental appointment.
First -- what are dental implants?
A dental implant is an alternative to dentures or a dental bridge, used to replace a missing tooth. During the implant procedure, a small titanium post is inserted into the jawbone. This helps the implant fuse to the jaw so that it will function just like a natural tooth. The tooth, which is designed much like a dental crown, is attached to the post.
These implants are generally a great option for anyone looking to replace a tooth. Dental bridges and crowns don't last forever, and may end up damaging the surrounding teeth. Dental implants, on the other hand, are capable of lasting a lifetime -- and avoiding the need for dentures later.
However, not everyone is a good candidate for implants. Below is some information about medical conditions that may prevent your implants from being successful.
Conditions that may affect (or be affected by) dental implants:
Autoimmune diseases -- such as lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), or Lyme disease -- may complicate the placement of dental implants. Because these implants are placed directly into the bone of the jaw, they may trigger an autoimmune reaction as the body attempts to reject this foreign tissue.
In typical patients, the body is able to handle any autoimmune reaction -- and eventually, the immune system will begin to recognize the dental implant as one of its own, rather than a foreign object. However, in those whose immune systems are already compromised, this implant can cause a chain reaction of problems, including worsening any underlying autoimmune disease.
If you have an autoimmune disease, consult both your immunologist and dentist before deciding whether to proceed with dental implants.
Chemotherapy treatment for cancer
If you're undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, you will want to postpone any dental implant procedures until your treatment regimen is complete. Cancer treatment can depress your immune system in much the same way as an autoimmune disease -- and while undergoing chemotherapy, you want your body to fight against the cancer cells, not your new tooth.
In addition, inserting a dental implant during chemotherapy can lead to an oral infection, severely compromising your treatment. You may have to stop chemotherapy until this infection heals.
If you have osteoporosis, you'll need a bone density test before undergoing a dental implant procedure. Because osteoporosis causes your bones to become porous and less dense than typical bone tissue, there may not be sufficient bone in your jaw for the implant to take hold. Implanting a post into less-than-optimal bone tissue can even cause further damage to the area, which could limit your future options when it comes to replacing a tooth.
Even if you have one of these conditions, you don't need to write off dental implants as impossible -- if you're undergoing chemotherapy, you can likely have an implant procedure after treatment is completed. As long as your autoimmune disorder is well-controlled, you may be able to undergo the implant procedure. Finally, there are treatments to improve bone density -- or even implant donor bone -- so that those with osteoporosis can receive dental implants. Above all, be sure to consult your physician so that he or she can give you the best advice for your situation.