Diabetes is very common in the United States, with more than 29.1 million people living with the condition nationwide. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, then you're already aware of the many ways in which your disease affects your body, from increasing your risk of eye diseases to slowing your healing time. This slowed healing time, in particular, is of concern if you are considering dental implant surgery. Although many diabetics do recover successfully from implant surgery, it's important that you're aware of your increased risk of poor healing and how to mitigate it.
How Implants Heal
To insert an implant, your dental surgeon will drill a hole in your jaw bone and insert a titanium screw. The healing process then involves the bone integrating itself with this screw. The soft gum tissues surrounding the implant must also heal. It is well-established that soft tissue healing is impeded in diabetics, but little research has been done to examine bone healing works in diabetics. Most dentists assume that this process is also slowed. Typically, it takes a non-diabetic patient about 6 weeks to heal from implant surgery, but takes a patient with well-managed diabetes 8 – 12 weeks to fully heal.
Strategies for Improving Healing
Dentists are careful to monitor the healing of their diabetic implant patients, and they use several strategies to encourage safe, prompt healing. One of these strategies is prescribing a longer course of antibiotics than is used for the typical patient. It is absolutely essential that you take these antibiotics as instructed in order to prevent infection. Antiseptic mouth rinses are also often prescribed. Sticking to a healthy diet and regulating your blood sugar closely are even more important than ever in the weeks before and after surgery.
Benefits of Dental Implants for Diabetics
If healing from dental implants is so challenging for diabetics, why do dentists continue to recommend implants for these patients? The reason is that leaving someone with a missing tooth tends to lead to further problems down the road. When a tooth is not replaced with an implant, the jaw bone breaks down and becomes weakened, which may put the remaining teeth in danger.
Dental bridges, which attach to the surrounding teeth and replace the crown portion of the teeth, but not the root, are often used in elderly diabetic patients and those whose blood sugar levels are poorly managed. However, most dentists recommend that if a diabetic patient can take the necessary steps to promote healing, he or she opt for implants rather than a bridge, since only implants prevent bone loss.
If you are missing one or more teeth and are a diabetic, make sure you tell your dental surgeon about your diabetes. He or she will likely collaborate with your physician to find a course of treatment that will allow you to have a complete smile again, while also avoiding worrisome infections and slow healing.