To qualify for dental implants, you have to meet a series of criteria.

The criteria could include adequate jaw bone mass, which you might not have thanks to genetic factors or health problems. And even if health problems have no effect on your bone mass, they could still keep you from getting implants. For example, if you smoke or have gum disease, your dentist or oral surgeon may bar you from implants.

These and other health problems lower your immune system's ability to protect your body, so the implant procedure might not work well in your case. So what do you do to fill the gaps in your smile in the meantime? 

Read the information below to learn more about your options.

1. Resolve Your Oral Health Issues

If you need an excuse to stop smoking, use this opportunity. The chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products dry out your mouth, making your gums recede and increasing your gums' and tooth roots' exposure to bacteria. A dry mouth also receives less blood and fewer white blood cells, so your oral tissues can't fight off infection as powerfully as before.

The same harmful chemicals could damage your oral tissues and impair your immune response even further. So, before you can get implants, you need to stop smoking, give your body a chance to heal and then consult with your dentist or oral surgeon again.

Additionally, if you have an existing health problem like gum disease, then you already have an infection in your mouth. That infection could move into the implant installation site in your jaw and cause dangerous complications. Make sure you resolve all health problems before you move forward with implants. Once you have a healthy mouth, your dentist won't have any issues performing this service.

2. Get Bone Grafts in Your Jaw

Maybe you have limited jawbone mass, and your dentist or oral surgeon discourages dental implants for that reason. You can still get implants, but you will have to resolve the bone mass issue first. You can solve this problem by having your dental professionals surgically graft bone to your jaw. This bone can come from anywhere else on your body. Contact your dentist to learn more.

Once you get your bone graft, you'll have to wait as long as a few months for the grafts to integrate with your jawbone. Then, after you have a stronger jaw, your dentist or oral surgeon can access the bone mass and see if you're ready for implants. Normally, you shouldn't have problems getting implants at this point.

3. Ask Your Dentist About Dental Bridges or Dentures

Perhaps you don't want to wait for bone grafts or put your body through more trauma than you have to. Maybe, despite your best efforts, you can't quit smoking or using other substances. Luckily, you can still fill the gaps in your smile, but you can't use implants. You'll have to explore the dental industry's other options instead. Bridges represent one of the simplest solutions.

To install a bridge, your dentist shaves down the enamel on the teeth on either side of the gap. He or she then installs crowns on those teeth, and the crowns will have a pontic, or false tooth, secured between them. The pontic looks and functions just like a natural tooth, only it rests on your gums instead of anchoring into them. You can chew, speak, and smile with confidence.

Your dentist might also offer dentures, but most people find implants or bridges more convenient and more comfortable. Implants and bridges don't slide, and they require less drastic repair measures if they break. Contact your dentist if you have any other questions. And if you'd like more information on dental implants and other teeth replacement options, have a look at the rest of our blog posts.