How do middle-class older people pay for dentures?
July 6, 2014 5:09 PM   Subscribe

My mom indicates that for my dad, extractions of his remaining teeth and a full set of dentures would run between $30-40k. Since dentures are not a luxury on par with a Porsche Boxter, something is amiss. Assuming that my folks are not eligible for Medicaid but have Delta Dental insurance, can anyone help me understand within an order of magnitude what they (or I) would spend on upper and lower dentures? Is my mom tripping? Do people routinely shell out tens of thousands for dentures? They're in New York but we're in Ohio (US).
posted by chesty_a_arthur to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Meant to add: a dentist has not given them this $40k figure. I don't know where it's coming from. Assume many extractions of filling-riddled teeth.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:10 PM on July 6, 2014

This is just a data point: My dad just had the procedure you're describing. There is no way in hell he would have done it if it cost $40,000. I'm reluctant to ask them how much it cost, but if they paid more than a couple thousand, I'd fall out of my chair.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:16 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

How are they going to remove all his teeth? In hospital, under general anaesthetic?
posted by taff at 5:16 PM on July 6, 2014

The cost of cosmetic procedures is why so many go without; it may not be $40 grand, but I've heard numbers between $10-20k.
posted by stormyteal at 5:18 PM on July 6, 2014

Taff, no idea. Probably not, given his heart issues. (He's 81.) I was assuming maybe twilight sedation? Maybe a quadrant at a time? I know nothing.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:18 PM on July 6, 2014

My mom travels to visit relatives in a place with much less expensive dental care and gets them made there. It costs less, she gets to see family, and since she stays for several weeks there is time to make adjustments if necessary. Obviously that isn't practicable for everyone, but there's a reason dental tourism is a thing. I saw a segment on some US news show about a town in Mexico where dental tourism is huge.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:20 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here are a few sites I found that have some pricing info: 1, 2, 3.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:20 PM on July 6, 2014

Dentistry is ridiculously expensive.
Not sure what your figure is based on, but root canals are around 1k per tooth. Implants are around $2k per tooth. Dentures are priced by the arch, not tooth, and I thought it was more around 5k with wide variation, but... if he needs implants or jaw surgery to provide a place to fix the dentures, as there has to be healthy teeth to attach dentures to, then, by the time you add everything up, I'd still think it should be half that, but that's not impossible, especially if he only has a few teeth left.

Keywords: Full Mouth Dental Reconstruction

BTW, workaround:
If you need major tooth work, a flight to Mexico or Thailand, and getting them done there at a top-class facility will cost you less, flights and holiday included.
posted by Elysum at 5:22 PM on July 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Are you sure you aren't confusing dentures for implants?
posted by drpynchon at 5:24 PM on July 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are places that remove your teeth and fit you for dentures for $500, choppers included. I assume they are going a little more upscale with maybe an orthodontist involved? In that case I could see maybe $1200 per tooth or so.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:25 PM on July 6, 2014

Assume these are dentures that adhere with denture cream; he's not eligible for implants.

As stated in the question, the $30-40k is not my number, I'm looking for a reality check.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:27 PM on July 6, 2014

Straight out Dentures?
Then yeah, Dr Google confirms average cost for dentures, $5k.
Add a few k for extractions etc.

Link from a site that has a motive to overestimate the US cost if anything, given they are suggesting holiday destination dentistry:
posted by Elysum at 5:33 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of my past long-term clients was a dentist, and I recalled the name of a marketing newsletter to which he subscribed. I've found the site, and you might find this article on "How Much Dentures Cost from a Dentist or Prosthodontist" to be helpful. It looks like the figure OP's mom is quoting is pretty excessive.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 5:50 PM on July 6, 2014

In Oregon we have a "denrturist" system (they don't treat, but are the people who actually make the dentures even if you go through a dental office) which greatly reduces costs. Extractions by the dentist, with costs dependent on difficulty, but you can get a very good set of upper and lower dentures, including multiple fitting sessions, for under $2,000 from a reputable denturist.

Check your Dad's state and nearby areas for laws which allow direct access to denturists.
posted by uncaken at 6:01 PM on July 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Another thing to consider: when they extract teeth, they put in temporary dentures and then about 8 months to a year later, they need to make permanent dentures. Make sure whoever your dad goes to spells this out clearly.

The reason for this is that gums will recede after the extractions, and most people do not want to go without teeth for that long. So what they do is extract and put in a crappy pair of cheap dentures, and then later on, about a year or so, they get the permanent dentures (which are higher quality).

The time period from extraction to getting used to temp dentures is really painful (i.e., swelling) and they will need to go for relines of the dentures as the gums shrink. Then, after about 8 months, they will need to be fitted for permanent dentures. That is, two sets of dentures, the second being the ones they will live with for the next 5-10 years, with relines.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:23 PM on July 6, 2014

Another thing to consider: when they extract teeth, they put in temporary dentures and then about 8 months to a year later, they need to make permanent dentures.

This is not accurate. I had multiple teeth pulled and dentures inserted that same day... I'm still wearing them 8 years later....
posted by HuronBob at 6:34 PM on July 6, 2014

I stand corrected. Where did you go, HuronBob? Because every denture place I have ever been to wants to follow that example.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:53 PM on July 6, 2014

For regular dentures, this almost sounds like a scam directed at the elderly. Might this be possible?
posted by Vaike at 7:12 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another thing to consider: when they extract teeth, they put in temporary dentures and then about 8 months to a year later, they need to make permanent dentures. Make sure whoever your dad goes to spells this out clearly.

Yeah, my dad had his done last month, and they put the dentures in the same day he had his teeth out. He had to wear them for 5 days, then went back for adjustments. He's had to go for adjustments every few days, and they're still not quite right, but they're getting better. (They took impressions a week or so before he had his teeth out, so he could look the dentures over and make sure he was comfortable with them before they went through the whole shebang.)

OP, the first week was hell for him, by the way, but it's better now.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:17 PM on July 6, 2014

Lots of people travel to foreign countries (e.g., Costa Rica) to have dental work done because the total cost of the trip (airfare, lodging, meals, etc.) is far less than the price difference on the dental work there versus in the US.

Suggest to your parents that they take a nice tropical vacation.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:44 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I knew someone who, at the age of 30, had a mouth full of rotting teeth and went to a periodontist to get an estimate on fake teeth. From what I recall, the entire process was estimated between $20,000-$40,000 for extraction and then full-on implants (the range depended on how many implants were needed - I guess you can have each tooth individually implanted for a higher price or you can get like a arc of teeth per implant for a bit less, with the risk of slightly lowered stability).

So, I would imagine that going the dentures route instead would be FAR less than that.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:14 PM on July 6, 2014

In all seriousness, if your parents are anywhere near an Amish community, I'd recommend they ask the Amish where they go for dentures and/or major dental work. Amish people don't have insurance and are generally thrifty, as medical expenses that the individual family can't bear are borne by the church community--nobody wants to put their neighbors in the hole for dentures if someone's child might get leukemia. They would probably know where to get quality work for good rates.
posted by epj at 10:27 PM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

The other thing about implants versus dentures is that if you're still relatively young, I'm going from memory here, but there's something about losing bone mass in your jaw after the teeth are removed that could make putting in implants later, or even maintaining the posts for the dentures, more difficult. But at 81, I doubt this is a major concern.
posted by Sequence at 10:47 PM on July 6, 2014

I see insurance coverage schedules as part of my work. Dentures do not cost $30,000 dollars. Mom has bad info.
posted by 26.2 at 11:13 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thailand and Mexico are popular for decent dental tourism. I have met some people who did this, and it seemed crazy to me until I heard the price difference from the U.S. (Singapore dentures).
posted by viggorlijah at 2:25 AM on July 7, 2014

One thing you should definitely be aware of -- even though it might not be relevant in your case -- is that there are predatory dentists out there that prey on Medicaid patients. Children and elderly are particular targets. If you do get a dentist who wants to do lots of extractions, it may be worth getting a second opinion.
posted by cgs06 at 2:51 AM on July 7, 2014

Is she looking at the actual cost or is she looking at what she would be paying with interest on a payment plan?

It does seem a bit high but, I don't know your dad's mouth. If he has serious issues, it may cost more than run of the mill, standard stuff.

You do want him to get the best that he can afford. Poorly fitted dentures are a torture. Have mom check with local dentist schools for cheaper services.

No matter what they do, no one should shell out that kind of money without getting a second opinion. So, you are in the right to question this.
posted by myselfasme at 6:50 AM on July 7, 2014

As far as keeping costs down, a university-affiliated teaching hospital might be the way to go. My painting teacher schleps into nearby Philadelphia to have his dental work done, and he saves big bucks. They do great work, he says.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:27 AM on July 7, 2014

My mom (Illinois) just went to the dentist last week (note: world's best dentist) to get her gnarly teeth evaluated for dentures. He's pulling 8 remaining teeth, 2 impacted teeth, inserting 8 mini implants, and giving her upper and lower dentures. It's going to cost her a bit under $12,000. She thinks her dental insurance will cover $1000 of that. Have your parents visit another dentist.
posted by jabes at 8:27 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you sure you aren't confusing dentures for implants?

Clearly the OP isn't, but I think several people posting here are.
posted by Rash at 1:33 PM on July 7, 2014

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