Radiation therapy weakens the immune system and interferes with bone growth. In fact, it was once common practice to remove all of the teeth of a person about to undergo radiation therapy on their head, neck, or mouth to prevent them from having to endure extractions post-treatment. And, since it was likely that these patients would not be able to successfully regenerate the necessary amount of bone to secure them to their mandible or maxilla, these patients were not candidates for dental implants.
Times have changed, though, and radiation therapy no longer condemns a person to a lifetime of missing teeth and removable dentures. If you've had radiation therapy in the past, you can forge ahead with new dental implants in confidence, thanks to hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
How Can HBOT Boost Your Odds Of Implant Success?
Oxygen is an important part of the healing process and, under normal circumstances, your body gets oxygen via red blood cells. Radiation, however, can lower your body's red blood cell count, slowing down the healing process and interfering with the ability of your bones to regenerate bone cells. This lowered red blood cell count can significantly prolong the healing process of dental implants and inhibit the ability of the jawbone to successfully bond with the implants.
During HBOT, however, you are placed in a pressurized chamber and delivered 100% pure oxygen. As your breath this oxygen in, your body delivers it to your bones and tissues, increasing your ability to heal yourself. As a result, you'll be far more able to fight off the risk of infection following a dental implant procedure, and your bones will be far more apt to bond to your implants.
What Does The Treatment Entail?
Most people panic a bit when they hear the term "chamber", but there really isn't anything to be afraid of. The chambers that you'll be asked to sit in for HBOT are made of steel and acrylic. The acrylic portions of the unit are usually clear, so you don't feel claustrophobic.
There's usually a comfortable hospital-style bed in the chamber which you can choose to sit up in or recline on, and many of the chambers even house a television to give you something to do while you're in there. Upon entering, you'll feel your ears plug up a bit, but you can counteract the feeling by simply swallowing. All in all, most people find HBOT to be a relaxing experience.
Depending on how long you underwent radiation treatment, how strong your doses were, your body weight, and your potential risk of implant failure, you can expect each HBOT to last for up to 2 hours. You may be asked to attend treatment once daily for 5 days a week. Your total treatment plan should last between 10 and 30 days.
Is There Anything Else You Should Know?
It's important that you not smoke during the time you are undergoing HBOT for dental implants. Cigarette smoke releases carbon monoxide into your bloodstream. Carbon monoxide interferes with the healing process, and so could negate the beneficial effects of your HBOT. Furthermore, if you do smoke, it's a good idea to quit anyway, so you can keep your future new smile bright-white and stain-free.
If you've lost teeth due to radiation treatment for cancer, it's important that you know that you no longer have to settle for removable dentures. It's true that people who underwent radiation used to be considered bad candidates for dental implants, but this no longer holds true. If you've been denied dental implants in the past, contact a dental implant specialist and ask how you can achieve a permanent smile with hyperbaric oxygen treatments.