How Cancer Can Affect Your Suitability For Dental Implants

If you've ever been afflicted with cancer, one of the happiest days of your life was likely when your oncologist told you that your cancer was officially in remission. You're out of the woods, and with regular checkups and by doing everything you can to maintain a high standard of health, you will hopefully stay out of those woods forever. Even when your cancer is in the distant past, its effects can still be observed in your body. This is often the case when you wish to receive dental implants. But does cancer, however far in the past it might have been, really mean you're not a candidate for dental implants?

Radiation Therapy and Bone Density

It's not so much your cancer that can make you unsuitable for dental implants, but the way in which it was treated. Radiation therapy is particularly problematic when it comes to compatibility with dental implants. Your cancer was treated with targeted ionizing radiation (generally x-rays or proton rays), and this can affect your bone density. Although the treatment was successful, a diminished level of density in your bones is an unfortunate side effect. Dental implants are inserted into your alveolar ridge, and when this bone lacks the necessary density to support the implant, then failure becomes more likely. 

Other Factors

A history of radiation therapy isn't always a deal breaker when it comes to dental implants. How long ago you completed your radiation therapy is relevant, as is the place in your body where the radiation was targeted. Your current state of overall health can also affect your suitability. It's absolutely crucial that you tell your dentist about your history of radiation therapy, so it can be taken into account when determining your suitability for dental implants.

Possible Alternatives

A traditional implant has a diameter of up to five millimeters, with a length of up to 16 millimeters. When your history means that traditional implants are unlikely to succeed, you might still be able to receive a miniature implant, which has significantly reduced dimensions. These implants can host an individual prosthetic tooth, but it depends on the location of the tooth, with molars (and the subsequent pressure they receive during chewing) being unsuitable in most cases. Alternatively, miniature implants can also act as a support structure for a fixed partial denture. A fixed dental bridge supported by the natural teeth on either side of the gap is another option, and doesn't require an implant.

Cancer can make it difficult to receive dental implants, but it can still be possible. To decide if dental implants are right for you, talk to your dentist.