It’s a fact that oral surgeries and tooth extraction can slightly increase your chances of heart attack and stroke. It’s also a well-known fact that bacteria in your mouth can easily move into your bloodstream, causing inflammation in blood vessels, also increasing risk for heart disease and stroke. So should you get dental implants if you already have heart issues? What are some things you need to consider before making this decision? Continue reading to find out if dental implants are right for you.
What are Dental Implants?
A dental implant consists of a small, screw-like post, usually made of titanium, that is implanted into your jaw. Your tooth and tooth root are removed during dental implant surgery and the post replaces your tooth root.
Then a connector is attached to the post and a cap that resembles a real tooth is placed on top of the connector.
The dental implant procedure is one that can take several months. This is because it takes time for the jaw bone to heal tightly over the implant. However, this is a more permanent, fixed option as compared to bridges or dentures.
Reasons for Dental Implants
Any reason that causes you difficulty chewing or having pain while eating may be a good reason to consider dental implants.
Some instances include the ones below:
- You have missing teeth or loose teeth
- You have broken or cracked teeth
- You have an infected tooth/teeth
- You have loose dentures, partials, or bridges
Benefits of Dental Implants
There are many benefits to getting dental implants. And depending on your reasons for getting them, some reasons may outweigh others.
Some major benefits are improved eating and chewing ability, improved confidence, their long-lasting nature, and their ability to help preserve facial and bone features.
Dental Implants Improve Eating and Chewing Ability
The main reason you have a mouth is to get proper nutrition through `eating. So dental implants are an obvious option for anyone having difficulty with chewing or eating enough because of oral issues.
Dental Implants Improve Confidence
Dental implants are made to look and feel natural. Therefore, you are able to smile and socialize with confidence. This is an aesthetic benefit, but also a very important one to many people. It improves overall quality of life.
Another benefit to implants over dentures is that they are surgically implanted in your mouth. So, unlike dentures, there is no need to worry about them falling out in public.
Dental Implants Are Long-Lasting
Dental implants are made to be durable and reliable. They can easily last as long as other oral restoration methods.
In fact, with good oral hygiene, they can last a LIFETIME.
Dental Implants Preserve Facial and Jaw Bone Features
And finally, dental implants have one very notable benefit. This is that they have the ability to preserve your facial and jaw bone mass.
This is possible because the tooth along with the tooth root are being replace. Thus, preventing bone resorption. Bone resorption is when your body takes bone from your jaw and distributes it somewhere else in your body.
Possible Complications with Dental Implants
When anyone, including those with chronic heart conditions, gets dental implants, there is always some amount of risk and possible complications. It’s important to consider these risks when deciding if implants are right for you.
Dental Implants and Intraoperative Risks
Those with a history of certain heart conditions are at risk of several complications and life-threatening events during the actual procedure.
For this reason, oral surgery is recommended to be as short as possible. And anesthesia should be used with precaution due to the risk of angina during the surgical procedure.
Likewise, heart patients who also have diabetes may experience episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugars) during surgery.
Other intraoperative risks include:
- cardio-respiratory depression
- congestive heart failure
- blood pressure and heart rate issues
Dental Implants and Infection
Chronic heart conditions also make you more apt to getting infections following surgery. Although, as mentioned above, if you have a chronic condition you will likely be prescribed antibiotics prior to your surgery.
Those with a history of myocardial infarction, increased risk of bacterial endocarditis, diabetes, or with immune suppression by corticosteroids or radiation therapy are required to take antibiotics prior to oral surgery.
You will likely continue taking your antibiotics for several days after your surgery in order to prevent infection.
Dental Implants and Delayed Healing
Certain health conditions will delay healing as compared to a person with no prior health conditions.
Older patients tend to have other conditions or comorbidities that may delay the healing process following surgery. And medications they may be taking for these conditions may also delay healing after dental implantation. For example, long-term corticosteroid therapy can delay healing.
Smoking can also delay healing after oral surgery.
For some tips on how to quit smoking, visit the article “5 Things You Can Do to Support Heart Health NOW” and scroll down to “#4: Stop Smoking”.
Dental Implants and Bleeding
There is a small chance of bleeding in patients taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications. A 2020 review of literature on bleeding risk in patients taking anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy reported that postoperative bleeding occurred in 2.2% of cases involving dental implant placements. However, in all those cases, the bleeding was controlled with the use of a local hemostatic agent, which is used to decrease clotting time.
Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, are commonly prescribed in heart patients. However, don’t let the name fool you. Blood thinners do not actually thin your blood. There purpose is merely to increase the amount of time it takes a blood clot to form. This helps prevent existing blood clots from getting larger as well as prevent new blood clots from developing.
Anyone prone to blood clots, having a history of atrial fibrillation or stroke, having left ventricular dysfunction or venous thrombosis may be taking anticoagulants.
Some common anticoagulant drugs include:
Antiplatelet medications may seem similar to anticoagulants however they work very differently. While anticoagulants slow your body’s process of making clots, antiplatelets work to prevent blood cells (AKA platelets) from clumping together and forming clots.
You may be taking an antiplatelet medication if you have a history of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). They may also be prescribed to relieve symptoms such as chest pain, poor circulation, or shortness of breath.
Some common antiplatelet medications include:
The Heart-Mouth Connection
When oral issues are present, it can lead to a decrease in overall health and cause body-wide complications.
One example is when harmful bacteria in your mouth leads to the development of periodontal disease. If not treated immediately, the bacteria can move into the bloodstream which will increase your C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein, or CRP, is a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. These changes can, in turn, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The link between oral health and heart health is still being researched. Of studies currently available, there may be good evidence proving an association between poor oral health and chronic diseases, including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and pancreatic cancer.
Who is Not Suitable for Dental Implants?
Those with specific heart conditions, other health conditions and/or everyday habits may be too high risk to have oral surgery. This means they have a higher chance of infection and other complications during and after their surgery. Some of these conditions include:
- Specific heart conditions- valvular heart disease, recent heart attack or stroke, cardiomyopathy
- Blood clotting disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
- Drug Abuse
- Smokers and tobacco chewers
All of the above conditions are contraindicators for oral surgery and your cardiologist and periodontist may refuse to go through with your procedure if any of these are present.
Very elderly patients, above the age of 85 years, may also be advised against surgery, as they tend to have many conditions putting them at risk.
Lower Risk Oral Surgery Options for Heart Patients
If you do not qualify for dental implant surgery there are other options.
You can also discuss the options of dental bridges, full or partial dentures, resin-bonded bridge, or a flipper with your dentist.
FAQ about Dental Implants for Heart Patients
Do I need to stop taking my blood thinner prior to oral surgery?
The answer here is, maybe. Not all blood thinners are the same. In order to be sure, you will have to ask your oral surgeon and also let your cardiologist know. Everyone needs to be on the same page when starting or stopping medications.
If I have to stop my medication, what can I take for pain instead?
If you are instructed to stop your blood thinner prior to oral surgery in order to decrease bleeding risk, it is usually okay to take Tylenol for pain if needed, however, you should discuss this with all medical providers before stopping.
Will I have to follow a special diet before or after my oral surgery?
Prior to your surgery you will continue to eat normally, however following your dental surgery you may have some pain, tenderness, or bleeding. There are also some foods you will initially have to avoid, such as spicy, acidic, sticky, crunchy, and hot foods. A softer diet may be necessary until tenderness resolves- see the infographic below for some soft food ideas.
How to Prevent Oral Issues From Starting
Prevention of oral issues starts with proper daily oral care. This will prevent tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and any other oral issues from arising.
Proper dental care includes:
- Brushing and flossing at least twice a day
- Seeing a dentist for regular 6-month oral cleanings
- Ensuring your dentures fit properly and are not too tight or too loose
Dental implants for heart patients is absolutely possible! I suggest weighing your options. Speak with both your cardiologist and your dentist and/or oral surgeon about any questions and concerns you have. Weigh the pros and cons and have good communication with all parties involved.
Give a list of all medications to these providers as well, so you don’t stop taking (or continue taking) anything that will put you at higher risk.
And finally, after your oral procedure is completed, take it easy. Allow healing and follow any dietary suggestions your dietitian or oral surgeon recommends. You may need to choose softer foods until you are able to tolerate regular consistency or harder, chewier foods again.
For some great tips on following a soft foods diet after surgery, read the article “75 Soft Foods to Eat When Chewing Hurts” by Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND.
Kiran Campbell is a registered dietitian and entrepreneur with 13 years of experience. She has a degree in psychology as well as dietetics. She is also a proud member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ and its Cardiovascular Health and Well-being Dietetics Practice Group among others. Kiran proudly presents and promotes the most up-to-date, science-based nutrition information on all things heart-related. She aims to serve not only individuals with heart disease, but also those wanting to protect against it. Learn more about Kiran by visiting her About Page.