It’s important to remember that your oral health is closely linked to your overall health. There are some ways, such as gum disease, that your oral health can have dramatic impact on other aspects of your health.
And then there are ways that other health concerns may impact your oral health, such as the way that birth control pills can increase gum disease risk. Another impact is that radiation therapy for cancer can cause risks associated with dental implants.
In general, we would not want to place dental implants while you are currently undergoing active radiotherapy. And even after radiotherapy, there are some important factors to consider.
Dental Implant Risks Associated with Radiotherapy
If your jaw is exposed to radiation, the risk that your dental implants will fail is doubled or even tripled. Now, since the initial risk of dental implant failure is relatively low, this still means that most dental implants will succeed, even after the jaw has been exposed to radiation.
Another potential risk, though it’s much rarer, is osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). In ONJ, the jawbone begins to die uncontrollably. This may start at the site of the implant, but it may spread throughout the jaw, affecting other teeth as well as your appearance, and potentially compromising the function of the jaw. ONJ is a risk of dental implants or any other major dental procedure, but radiation or certain medications make the risk much, much higher.
Did Radiotherapy Expose the Jaw?
In the past, radiotherapy was not as precise as it is today. It tended to expose most of the body, no matter where the cancer was. Today, it is more focused, so that although there is likely some incidental exposure, it will be limited.
The question is: how much was your jaw exposed. For mouth or jaw cancer, of course your jaw was exposed. Probably exposed to significant amounts for throat cancer. But if the cancer was in the pancreas or even the lung or the breast, exposure might be quite limited, and may not impact your dental implants.
How Much Radiation Was Used?
We also have to consider the level of radiation that was used, because it is the level of exposure that will determine how much impact it has on your dental implants. Some studies suggest that exposure of 55 Grays (Gy) can lead to increased risk of dental implant failure.
Consult with Your Oncologist
Your oncologist is the best one to make judgments about how much radiation your jaw was exposed to as a result of your radiotherapy. Talk to them about their concerns and what we will need to watch out for.
As a cancer survivor, you should give yourself to enjoy your life to the fullest, and that includes enjoying the complete, functional, and attractive smile that dental implants can give. To learn whether dental implants in Wilmington, NC are right for you, please call 910-392-6060 for an appointment with an implant dentist at Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.