Heart disease is a serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide. If you are one of the many heart patients who have lost teeth due to decay or injury, you may be wondering if dental implants are a safe and viable option for you.
The short answer is maybe. There are some important things you need to consider before making this decision.
In this article, we will explore the relationship between dental implants and heart disease and answer some of the most common questions that heart patients have about this procedure, including what to eat after dental implant surgery.
Table of Contents
The Heart-Mouth Connection
First let’s talk a little about how oral health relates to heart health.
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 lead 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.
Additionally, current research reports good evidence regarding an association between poor oral health and chronic diseases, including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and pancreatic cancer (1, 2, 3).
For more heart-healthy recommendations: 5 Things You Can Do to Support Heart Health NOW
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots made of titanium that are surgically placed into the jawbone. They are attached using a screw-like post. Your tooth and tooth root are removed during dental implant surgery and the post replaces your tooth root.
Once the implant is securely in place, a crown or other prosthetic tooth is attached to the implant to replace the missing tooth.
The dental implant procedure 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.
Why Are Dental Implants a Good Option for Heart Patients?
Dental implants are a great option for heart patients because they are a permanent solution to missing teeth that can improve your overall oral health. Missing teeth can cause a variety of problems, including difficulty chewing, speech problems, and bone loss. Dental implants can help to prevent these problems and improve your quality of life.
Any reason that causes you difficulty chewing or pain while eating may be a good reason to consider dental implants. Some instances include having:
- missing teeth or loose teeth
- broken or cracked teeth
- an infected tooth/teeth
- loose dentures, partials, or bridges
There are many benefits to getting dental implants. Some major benefits are improvements in chewing ability, confidence, durability, and the preservation of facial and bone features. Let’s discuss these benefits further.
Dental Implants Improve Eating and Chewing Ability
The main reason you have a mouth is to get proper nutrition through eating. Dental implants are an obvious option for anyone having difficulty chewing or eating enough because of oral issues.
Dental Implants Improve Confidence
Because dental surgical implants are made to look and feel natural, you can smile and socialize with more confidence. This is an aesthetic benefit, but also a very important one to many people. Improving confidence also improves the overall quality of life.
One benefit of implants over dentures is that they are surgically implanted in your mouth. Therefore, 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. They can preserve your facial and jaw bone mass!
During your procedure, your tooth along with its root is being replaced. Thus, preventing bone resorption. Bone resorption is when your body takes bone from your jaw and distributes it somewhere else in your body.
Are Dental Implants Safe for Heart Patients?
Dental implants are generally safe for heart patients. However, it is important to let your dentist know if you have any heart conditions or are taking any medications for your heart before undergoing any dental procedure, including dental implant surgery. Your dentist may need to consult with your cardiologist before proceeding with the surgery.
Are Dental Implants Painful?
If you’ve ever had a tooth extraction, such as your wisdom teeth (molars), you may remember how uncomfortable it was.
I had mine removed as a teenager before having braces. To say the least, it was a very uncomfortable experience despite using local anesthesia.
This process also uses local anesthesia. However, research reports that for those who have experienced both tooth extraction and dental implants in their lifetime, there was a less unpleasant experience with dental implants versus tooth extraction.
This is specifically in regards to the amount and duration of pain after implant surgery, and the limitations of daily activities.
What Are the Risks Associated With Dental Implant Surgery for Heart Patients?
When anyone, including those with chronic heart conditions, gets dental implants, there is always some amount of risk involved, including bleeding, infection, and damage to surrounding teeth or nerves. 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, if you have a heart condition, your dentist may take additional precautions to ensure your safety during the surgery.
For example, your heart rate and blood pressure may be monitored throughout the surgery. And anesthesia should be used with precaution due to the risk of angina during the surgical procedure.
Heart patients who have diabetes may also experience episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) 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 put you at a higher risk of developing infections after surgery. However, if you have a chronic health condition, you will likely be given antibiotics before your surgery.
Those with the following medical history or conditions will require antibiotics before surgery:
- myocardial infarction
- those with a high risk of bacterial endocarditis
- immunocompromised individuals taking corticosteroids or radiation therapy
You will likely continue taking 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. Some medications can also delay healing after dental implantation. For example, long-term corticosteroid therapy can delay healing.
Smoking can also delay healing after oral surgery.
For tips on how to quit smoking: How Can Refraining From Smoking Benefit an Individual’s Health?
Dental Implants and Bleeding
There is a small chance of bleeding in patients taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications. A 2020 review of the 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 literally thin your blood. Their 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, or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). They can also be given to relieve symptoms such as chest pain, poor circulation, or shortness of breath.
Some common antiplatelet medications include:
Who is Not Suitable for Dental Implants?
Those with specific heart conditions or other chronic health conditions 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.
Older adults, above the age of 85 years, may not be eligible for oral 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. Other lower-risk options may include:
- dental bridges
- full or partial dentures
- resin-bonded bridges
- a flipper
Ask your dentist or oral surgeon about these options as well and see what they can do for you.
How Do You Care For Dental Implants?
Caring for dental implants is similar to caring for natural teeth. You should brush and floss regularly and visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. It is also important to avoid chewing on hard objects or biting down on hard foods, as this can damage the implant.
What To Eat After Dental Implant Surgery
Before your surgery, you will continue to eat normally, however following your dental surgery you may have some pain, tenderness, or bleeding.
A softer diet may be necessary until your tenderness and inflammation goes away. In general, a diet that includes foods that don’t require much chewing is recommended. This is usually referred to as a soft foods diet.
Directly following surgery and until your mouth is less tender, it is safe to consume liquids and soft foods such as:
- Juices and other beverages- you may want to avoid very hot beverages like tea and coffee or drink them at lukewarm temperature
- Broths and creamy soups- if needed soups can be blenderized to get a smooth consistency
- Milkshakes and smoothies- Try some of the smoothie recipes on my RECIPES page
- Ice cream
- Applesauce and other fruit purees
- Mashed potatoes
- Oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat, or cream of rice
- Soft scrambled eggs
These are just a few examples of soft foods. For more tips on following a soft diet after oral surgery, read “75 Soft Foods to Eat When Chewing Hurts” by Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND.
And grab the FREE “Eating After Oral Surgery” download below to post on your fridge.
What To Eat For Dinner After Dental Implant Surgery
If you’re still totally lost as to what to eat after dental implant surgery, here are a few easy options:
- Soft scrambled eggs, applesauce, oatmeal with brown sugar
- Pureed or creamed soup, mashed sweet potato, ice cream
- Tomato soup, mashed cauliflower, mashed avocado, sherbet
- Avocado Peanut Butter Smoothie
How Long To Eat Soft Foods After Dental Implant Surgery
It takes time for your mouth to heal after dental implant surgery. This amount of time will vary from person to person.
As I mentioned in the delayed healing section above, some individuals may have factors that slow the healing process. Because of these factors, they may need to follow a soft diet longer.
On average, you can expect to eat soft foods for about a week after your surgery. Then gradually advance your diet to foods that require a little more chewing such as well-cooked, soft vegetables, thicker soups and stews, flaky fish, pancakes, macaroni and cheese, and muffins.
Foods Not To Eat After Dental Implant Surgery
There are also some foods you will initially have to avoid while your mouth is healing. These foods are ones that can irritate or cause pain to your healing mouth and gums. Some foods to avoid include:
- spicy foods– hot sauce, spicy chili, salsa
- acidic foods– foods with lemon juice, orange juice, or vinegars
- sticky foods– taffy, caramel, gummy candies, chewing gum or bubble gum
- crunchy foods– whole apples, popcorn, chips, pretzels, nuts and seeds, toast
- hot foods– tea, coffee, hot chocolate
You can slowly introduce these foods back into your diet over the next few weeks, or as instructed by your oral surgeon.
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. 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?
You may need to stop taking your blood thinner before oral surgery. This is to decrease bleeding risk. For pain, you may take ibuprofen or Tylenol if needed, however, you should discuss this with all medical providers before stopping or starting any medications.
Dental implant surgery for heart patients is a safe and effective solution for those who have lost teeth. Speak with your cardiologist and your dentist and/or oral surgeon about any questions and concerns. Weigh the pros and cons and have good communication with all parties involved. Dental implants can help improve your quality of life and help you maintain good oral health for years to come!
Remember to give a list of all medications you are taking to these providers, so you don’t stop taking (or continue taking) anything that will put you at higher risk.
And finally, after your oral surgery, take it easy. Allow healing and use the suggestions above to educate yourself on what to eat after dental implant surgery. You will need d to choose softer foods until you can tolerate a regular consistency with hard, chewier foods again.
But in the long run, I hope you have a great experience and enjoy your results!
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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.