I’m wondering if dental implants have been definitively linked to oral cancer. Various forms of cancer run in my family and I’ve taken a proactive approach to limit my risk. I follow up with my doctor for annual visits, quit smoking, and am of a healthy weight. I planned on replacing a missing tooth with a dental implant, but then caught some people taking in an online forum about how they’re linked with cancer too. I’ve started digging through some of the related research and can’t make heads or tails of it, but I am reconsidering my decision and looking into alternatives. What if any, is the real link here, and is it safe for someone like me to go forward?
It’s great that you’re asking these questions, but you should be in the clear here.
Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma is What Concerns Most People
To break it down, squamous cells are the cells in your outermost and middle layers of skin and carcinoma refers to a specific type of cancer that begins in skin and tissue cells. Sometimes the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Research shows that about 95% of the people who develop it smoke, drink alcohol, or do both. Treatment is usually successful in the early stages, but because it’s often asymptomatic in the early stages and not everyone has regular exams, it isn’t always caught early. Roughly 60,000 people in the world are diagnosed with it annually, according to research, so risk of developing it is very low to begin with. However, most dentists and hygienists will visually screen for it when you go in for a checkup out of an abundance of caution anyway.
Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Gets Confused with Peri-Implantitis
Peri-implantitis is a condition that involves inflammation around dental implants. The soft tissue becomes angry or irritated and the bone starts to be resorbed by the body. It’s not a common condition either and there are many ways to treat it. Survival of the implant varies, but is impacted by how early the condition is detected and treatment begins. Researchers say peri-implantitis sometimes gets misdiagnosed as oral squamous cell carcinoma and vice versa, which results in the first link between them.
Research Shows Dental Implants Do Not Cause Cancer
Countless studies have looked into links between the two and have determined that there is no cancer link. That said, research published in the American Journal of Implantology takes it a step further and calculated the standardized incidence ratio at 0.00017. In other words, risk is very, very low of developing cancer.
Talk with Your Doctor
Based on what you’ve said here, you’re still a great candidate for dental implants. They’re the ideal missing tooth replacement because they mimic the natural function of the tooth, which helps ensure you retain bone. Those who lose teeth and choose other options tend to experience bone loss in those areas, which leads to facial collapse—a condition that gives people an aged, sunken-in look around their mouth. That said, if you’re still worried about cancer risk, it’s a good idea to talk with your dentist about your personal level of risk and ensure you’re being screened for cancer at your regular checkups.
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Steve Sirin, an Elgin dental implant provider.