Dental Insurance and Dentures: Everything You Could Ever Want to Know
You’ve recently discovered that you need dentures. After conversations with your dental practitioner about years of wear on your teeth, it’s time you replace your less-than-perfect smile with a gleaming white one.
Knowing that you need dentures is probably going to be a little scary. You likely have a lot of questions. Will you look good? Will you speak correctly? And how will you pay for them? Are dentures covered by insurance?
In this guide, we’ll take a look at what you need to know about dental insurance, how it will help you out, and if you can use it at all.
What Are Dentures?
You’ve likely had a conversation with your dentist about what type of dentures you need. But if you know it’s time to repair your smile and have not yet spoken to a medical professional, you may be wondering about the basics of dentures.
Dentures come in a variety of forms. The most common are full and partial, so let’s begin with those.
Full dentures are removable replacements for all your teeth. They go from molar to molar and usually require the removal of all your teeth. After the extraction of your teeth, your gums will need time to heal. Only then can a set of full dentures be placed over your gums for a perfect fit.
Partial dentures are great for patients who still have a good number of strong, healthy teeth. Partials utilize those healthy teeth as a base with the new “false” teeth fitting between your existing ones.
Getting dentures is certainly no small deal. It can take months from your initial appointment to the final fitting of your new smile, so be sure you’re adequately prepared to change your habits for that time.
Other Types of Dentures
There are a few other types of dentures that may have come up during your discussion, so let’s take a look at those briefly.
Custom dentures are custom fit and designed to look more natural and radiant. The materials used to make your custom dentures are frequently more expensive than other dentures, and this results in a much higher price.
Immediate dentures are a great option for those patients who qualify. These dentures can be placed on the same day that your teeth are extracted, which means you don’t need to go “toothless” for several days or even several weeks.
Implant-supported dentures are attached to implants that are drilled through gum and bone. They’re secure, but the procedure is much more invasive and you will also be hit with the costs of the implants.
Finally, same-day or economy dentures are very cost-effective. However, they don’t look as natural as other dentures, as your gums aren’t required to heal before placement. Adhesive is required to keep this type of denture in place.
There are several other variations of dentures available to you, but these are the most frequently ordered for dental patients in America.
Adjusting to Life with Dentures
If you’ve experienced tooth loss or rotting, soft or cracking teeth, you know that even the most basic aspects of life can be complicated. You can’t eat crunchy foods easily. You may be embarrassed to smile or laugh with others. Simply put, you don’t feel confident with yourself, and that impacts your day-to-day life.
Life with dentures is going to be different. It will take some time to get accustomed to your new smile, but you’ll find it’s worth it. Your speech will eventually become clearer. Your face may look fuller and younger. You’ll once again be able to eat foods that you previously rejected. Most importantly, you’ll have a smile you can show off to the world.
There are a few things you need to know about your new dentures, though, which you may not expect. First, your body may produce more saliva as a result of you wearing a new set of teeth. Keep this in mind when you speak to others and as you go about your day.
Secondly, you may experience an exacerbated gag reflex when you first begin to wear your dentures. This is a minor issue for most people, and it usually goes away in a week or two.
Finally, you’ll almost invariably pronounce your words differently. When you were missing teeth, your mouth formed words a certain way. Now that you have a full set, you’ll have to “relearn” how to move your mouth around your teeth to pronounce certain words and sounds.
Overall, the benefits outweigh the inconveniences. You can expect the adjustment period to last a month or so.
How Much Do Dentures Cost?
Your super new smile won’t come at a super low cost. You can expect to pay handily for your dentures, and the price will vary depending upon what kind you are fitted for.
At the time of writing, the following price ranges applied to dentures. Note that this may vary by practitioner, geographical area, and several other factors.
- Custom dentures are made from premium materials and will yield the most natural look and fit. These dentures are likely to cost you between $2,000 and $4,000 per plate (top and bottom) for a total of $4,000 to $8,000.
- The average mid-range denture will cost you between $1,000-3,000 total. Each plate will cost between $500 and $1,000.
- Economy dentures can be expected to cost significantly less than the other types. A plate will typically cost between $300 and $500. That’s around $1,000 for a full set. Note that these dentures must be frequently refit, won’t look as natural, and won’t sit as securely in your mouth.
On average, you can expect to pay around $1,800 for your dentures. Please remember, though, to talk to your dentist about which type is right for you. Do not make your decision based on the cost of your procedure alone.
Are Dentures Covered by Insurance?
We can’t tell you explicitly whether your dentures will be covered by your insurance. There are too many factors to consider.
- The type of dentures you get will directly impact whether insurance will cover them.
- The reason for your dentures also matters—is this just a cosmetic procedure or is it medically necessary?
- Does your dentist or orthodontist accept insurance?
- What is your annual deductible on your dental insurance plan?
- What is your dental plan’s annual spending cap?
American dental insurance is notoriously not generous. You can expect to pay a great deal on your dentures, whether you’re insured or have no insurance.
Medicaid and Medicare do not cover dentures. In fact, even dental cleanings aren’t generally covered by state-run medical insurance. Dental care has always been an “other” medical profession in the United States and other nations as well. Perhaps you’ve learned about barbers as dentists in the Middle Ages.
Even today, dental insurance isn’t as comprehensive as it could–and possibly should–be. Therefore, there’s only a small chance that your dental work will be covered by your policy; it’s just not deemed necessary by insurance companies.
Check with your insurance carrier to determine whether dental care and dentures are covered by your plan. If you have a quality policy, there’s a chance that at least a small part of your work will be covered by your insurance.
How Can I Reduce the Cost of My Dentures?
If you and your dentist have decided you need dentures, it’s time to figure out how you’ll pay for them. With so many insurance carriers not covering the cost of your new smile, you may need to do some creative financing.
Fortunately, you have several options.
First, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Your dentist, prosthodontist, or other practitioner’s price for dentures may be higher than the average for your area. Ask around and don’t be afraid to get a few “quotes” for your new set of teeth.
Ask your friends and family who may have experience with dentures who they recommend. It may be possible that there’s a provider outside your insurance network who will cost you less, even, than you would pay should you use your insurance.
Finally, preparation is key. When you discover that you need new dentures, begin saving money and put it aside each pay period or month. Before you know it, you’ll have enough cash stashed away to afford your new grin.
Should you determine that your practitioner is the cheapest, you’ve asked your friends’ opinions and you’ve saved a bit of cash, you still have two options you may have overlooked. Let’s take a look at those.
Medical Care Financing
In a perfect world, you could put the entire cost of your dentures on a credit card. Pay it down little by little, and you’ve got a new set of teeth with an installment plan. However, credit cards aren’t for everyone. There’s another way to finance.
There are many companies out there, some more prevalent than others, who offer credit to you only for medical procedures. This covers dental, too.
Run a Google search for “medical credit” and you’ll find that the first few results will offer you prequalification for financing for your dental needs.
Medical credit works just like a credit card, though you’ll be somewhat limited in which providers you can use. That said, breaking down the cost of your dentures when they’re not covered by your insurance is certainly more palatable than paying upfront for your new teeth.
In many states, universities offer local residents the opportunity to have work done at an extremely low or even no cost. This work is done by dental students and residents and is usually offered on a lottery basis.
Search your local college or university and see what they have to offer. Sometimes these programs aren’t widely advertised online. If necessary, call the dental school’s main number and ask if you can get dentures through the student teaching program.
If you do choose this option, remember that these are dental students working on your teeth. They are always supervised by a qualified professional, but mistakes do happen. The best case scenario is you get a new, vibrant smile for free. Worst case scenario? You end up having to visit a pricey dentist after all.
Another downside to dental schools is the wait. Again, patients are usually served on a lottery basis. Hundreds of prospective patients will put their name in a “bucket,” and you’ll have to wait for your name to be drawn–if your name is drawn.
Your best bet is to provide a compelling case for why you need dentures and why you want to use the dental school’s service. There are no holds barred, so don’t be afraid to express your feelings! Dentists are people too, and they have empathy just like you do.
Dental Discount Plans
Your dentist may offer a dental discount plan. These discount plans allow you to pay a sort of membership fee either monthly or annually. In exchange, you’ll receive a specified dollar- or percentage-off services.
In addition to dental plans through your provider, there are companies that operate on a national basis that will also allow you to enroll in a plan. These can cost as little as $100 per year. Be sure you shop around and determine whether this “insurance” will cover or offer a discount on dentures.
The services that are discounted usually include your routine cleanings. They’ll typically cover emergency visits like extractions and root canals. Braces may be discounted through these plans, and services like x-rays, crowns, and fillings are also covered.
Not all of these discount plans will cover dentures, but you’ll find that you can get discounts on your new smile if you do a little bit of research.
Find a New Provider
Your dentist or prosthodontist may not be the cheapest option in your area. For that reason, it’s worth it to look around (and even consider travel) to find the most cost-effective provider for your dentures.
While most insurance carriers don’t cover dentures, there are providers who specialize in giving you a new smile. Because that’s literally all they do as a practice, they can be more cost-efficient than a traditional dentist.
Search terms like “affordable dentures” (though that’s a brand name, it will still yield results) or “dentures in San Francisco, CA” (or wherever you live) can return results that may be useful to you. Using a denture provider can net you savings of hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on your dentures.
If you’re keen to travel, you can consider finding a medical provider in another country who will fit your dentures at a low cost. Medical tourism was once popular amongst people who would travel to more developed countries to receive quality care. This has evolved to include tourists who travel to destinations in order to receive less expensive care.
Dentures and Insurance FAQs
Determining that you need dentures can be scary. You may be wondering about the procedure, about how you’ll look with your new smile and, of course, about how you‘ll pay for your dentures.
We’ve put together a few of the most frequently asked questions about your new smile.
Can I Use My FSA For Dentures?
Yes! In most cases, you can use your flexible spending account to help keep the cost of your dentures down. Keep in mind that the average FSA contribution in the United States is about $1,500 per year. If you need full dentures or want custom dentures, you’ll need to expect to pay a bit out of pocket for them.
Is There Any Way To Get My Dentures At No Cost?
It’s going to be difficult and there’s no immediate way to get your dentures for free. However, we mentioned dental schools as one option. Another option is to apply through charity programs and request that they cover the cost of your dentures. Most charity programs will have very specific household income requirements, so be sure to read the terms closely.
What Are The Hidden Costs Of Getting Dentures?
Throughout this guide, we’ve mentioned the “cost of dentures” several times. This, however, includes just the price of the plates that will be fitted to your gums. This does not include the cost of extractions or medications like anesthetics and antibiotics. You can expect to spend more than just the cost of your plates, so speak with your practitioner about the total cost.
How Long Will My Dentures Last?
The life expectancy of your new smile will depend on what type of dentures you get. If your teeth are extracted, the bones beneath your gums will change in size and shape. This may mean you’ll need a refitting sooner than later.
If you maintain a part of your teeth under your dentures (an overdenture) then your bones will retain their shape for longer. Overall, you can expect to replace your dentures around every seven years. However, subsequent fittings and replacements may not be as pricey as your original set.