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What Should You Know About Dental Implants As A Recovering Alcoholic?

If you've recently sought help in dealing with alcoholism, you may be excited to finally feel free from the shackles of your addiction for the first time in years (or even decades). But despite your recent commitment to sobriety, you could still be facing permanent health-related consequences of your years of alcohol abuse -- particularly when it comes to your oral health. If you're considering dental implants as a way to restore lost or damaged teeth, you'll first need to learn about some of the potential consequences of falling off the wagon after your implant surgery, as well as some health conditions that could prevent your implants from succeeding. Read on to learn more about how alcoholism can affect your teeth and gums, as well as some of the factors you'll want to consider when deciding whether dental implants are the right choice for you.

What effect does chronic alcohol use have on your teeth?

While you may primarily associate alcoholism with liver or kidney issues, long-term alcohol use can also have a detrimental effect on your teeth, gums, and esophagus. Each drink you take irritates the delicate tissues on the inside of your mouth, and heavy drinking raises your risk of oral and esophageal cancer. If you frequently vomited after drinking (or while hung over), the stomach acid likely weakened your dental enamel, leading to an increased risk of cavities. Heavy drinking also diminishes the ability of the tiny capillaries in your soft tissues (like your gums and tongue) to carry blood to the surrounding areas, frequently leading to gum disease and tooth loss.

Are dental implants a good idea for recovering alcoholics?

In some cases, the damage to certain teeth may be severe enough that the only feasible option is to pull them and replace each with a false tooth or dental implant. Unlike dentures or bridges, dental implants involve the placement of a titanium screw into your jaw bone, where it fuses with the bone and serves as a solid, life-like replacement for your natural tooth. The false tooth affixed to this titanium screw should be indistinguishable from your natural teeth in both appearance and function. As a result, dental implants are a great option for those who have made a commitment to future oral health, as they'll likely last just as long as your natural teeth.

However, there are certain risks inherent in this procedure, particularly for recovering alcoholics. You'll want to have a full physical exam from your primary care physician (as well as a dental exam) before undergoing this procedure. By taking your vital signs and running some basic blood tests, you'll ensure you're in relatively good health and aren't suffering from any conditions that could potentially suppress or aggravate your immune system, leading to problems with the implant's integration into your jaw bone.

You'll also want to ensure there is adequate bone mass in your jaw to support one or more dental implants. If you weren't regularly getting enough Vitamin D or calcium during the times you were drinking, you may have already suffered some bone loss. Without a solid base to anchor the implant, the risk of rejection is much higher, and undergoing the procedure can cause further damage to your gums.

Finally, you'll want to take extra steps to keep to a sober path while your implant is healing. Each alcoholic drink you take will interfere with your body's natural healing process -- and the longer it takes for your implant to heal, the higher the risk that the titanium screw will simply work its way out of your body, rendering the procedure useless. Investing in one or more dental implants can give you that extra incentive you need to continue to take care of your health.