If you've recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto's disease, or another autoimmune disorder, you may be relieved to finally be able to put a name to the condition that has left you dealing with chronic pain and fatigue for months. However, even with treatment, these disorders can sometimes cause collateral damage in other parts of your body (or make certain procedures more difficult from which to recover). If you've been considering a dental implant to replace a missing tooth, your new diagnosis could throw a wrench into these plans. Read on to learn more about how autoimmune disorders can impact the placement of dental implants, as well as how you should proceed if you've decided an implant is still the best decision for your dental health.
Can you get a dental implant if you have an autoimmune disorder?
A healthily functioning immune system acts much like an army—watchfully waiting when no threats are present and springing into action to isolate and neutralize any pathogens that manage to make it through. However, for those with autoimmune disorders, the immune system can no longer discern between potentially harmful pathogens and the body's own healthy tissues and "good" bacteria, and will mount equal inflammatory responses against both. Many autoimmune disorders can be treated or managed through medications that help suppress the immune system's response—however, these medications can bring with them their own side effects.
Because having a dental implant requires the placement of a titanium post inside your jaw to anchor your new tooth, this process can sometimes exacerbate the symptoms of an autoimmune disorder by giving your body something new to attack. This doesn't mean you'll be unable to have a dental implant placed after your diagnosis—but depending upon the severity of your symptoms, the length of time you've been dealing with your autoimmune disorder, and your overall health, you may opt to wait until your disorder has reached a remission point before seeking this treatment. Doing so should significantly improve your odds of a quick and relatively pain-free recovery.
Alternatively, you may opt to have your implant post composed of zirconium oxide. This material is a type of ceramic that won't cause an autoimmune reaction and is even stronger than titanium. While zirconium oxide can be more expensive than titanium, this implant should last you for the rest of your life—making it a wise investment.
What can you do to ensure your dental implant surgery is successful?
If you've decided that the benefits of a dental implant (including the preservation of your surrounding teeth) are well worth the risks, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind before undergoing this procedure.
First, you'll want to evaluate any current prescription (or non-prescription) medications you're taking to ensure they won't react badly with the antibiotics or prescription painkillers you'll need after your procedure. Because your mouth harbors a great deal of bacteria, prophylactic antibiotics are often necessary to prevent an infection from working its way into your jawbone during the implant process. You'll need to ensure that you'll be able to take this antibiotic (or another equally effective one) without compromising the safety and effectiveness of your other drugs. Your primary care physician or pharmacist should be able to give you the information you'll need to temporarily change dosages or stop taking a medication in preparation for your procedure.
You'll also want to get a handle on any bad habits that could impede healing. If you're a smoker, you'll need to find a way to get by without lighting up for at least the week or two following the placement of your titanium or zirconium oxide post. Nicotine and the other carcinogens present in cigarettes can constrict the tiny blood vessels in your gums, slowing the healing process and in some cases even causing your body to reject the implant. Those who drink heavily should also cut back during recuperation from a dental implant, as regular consumption of alcohol can delay your body's production of new skin and tissue cells.
Make sure to work closely with a dentist at a clinic like Oral Surgery Associates Inc to ensure the greatest chance of success with your new dental implant.