Dental Implants for Cancer Patients

Dental implants for cancer patients

The goal of teeth replacement in dentistry is to restore function as well as esthetics and dental implants are a great option to replace a single tooth or multiple teeth.

When it comes to tooth replacement, there are usually three options when it comes to dentistry:

(1) removable dental appliance, (2) fixed bridge, and (3) dental implant. Implants are usually the more desirable option because it’s supported by bone only and does not affect surrounding natural teeth. So it’s natural that everyone who has lost teeth would want them, however, there are some risks associated with dental implant, and these risks may increase if you have cancer or have undergone chemotherapy/radiation therapy for cancer.

There is no reason why a patient who has received chemotherapy but who is otherwise a suitable candidate should not benefit from placement of a dental implant. Many people with cancer live long and happy lives. If an implant-retained prosthesis improves their function and well-being, then this service should be offered to them.

However, there are a few key factors that must be taken into consideration when planning an implant for a cancer patient. In fact, the patient can assist in organizing the safe placement of a dental implant.  

  1. Ask the patient to acquire a copy of his/her most recent blood cell counts, along with data on trends in these counts from her cancer care facility. Updated blood cell counts should be obtained and reviewed before each dental appointment to confirm that the patient remains fit for treatment. Before treatment, the patient should also be asked whether she has been receiving any active chemotherapy or investigational drugs.
  2. The doctor and the patient both must be comfortable in regard to placement of the implants. The dentist, the patient, and the oncologist should be confident that the patient can be managed appropriately in a private dental practice setting.
  3. With the treatments available today, more patients survive and live with cancers of all types than ever before. These patients should undergo more frequent clinical and radiographic examinations to maintain dental health. The key concept in managing the care of oncology patients is preventing dental problems.

Some factors to take into account if you are considering dental implants after cancer treatments include the primary risk of radiation exposure to the jaw that may cause the dental implant to fail. There’s also a risk for osteonecrosis of the jaw, although this is much rarer. Osteonecrosis is a bone disease which results from the loss of blood supply to the bone. Without blood, the bone tissue dies and causes the bone to collapse. It may also result in a loss of jawbone beyond just the implant area.

With improvements in radiation therapy, radiation exposure is more focused on the actual area where the cancer occurred. So if your cancer was in the jaw, there was definitely radiation exposure, but if the cancer was breast cancer or pancreatic cancer, there is less risk that the jaw was exposed, so you may not have any increased risk.

Before getting dental implants, it’s a good idea to talk to your oncologist to determine whether your treatments may have increased your risk of dental implant failure. The good news is that, even with radiation exposure, dental implant success rates are relatively high.

If you are considering dental implants and want to talk to a dentist who specializes in dental implants for cancer patients, you can always contact Sachar Dental for an appointment. Our prosthodontist will examine the area to be considered for the dental implant and makes a clinical assessment of whether you are a good candidate for a dental implant.