Your Guide to Top-Quality, Affordable DentistryDentures replace missing teeth—partial dentures to replace several teeth and full dentures to replace them all. Partial dentures, also called removable bridges, are replacement teeth affixed to a plastic base; a metal framework holds the removable denture in place. Partial dentures are used to prevent natural teeth from shifting and to restore normal appearance after tooth loss.
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In custom making a full denture, the dentist first takes impressions and measurements of the patient's jaw and then creates wax or plastic models of teeth the size and shape required for good fit, functionality, and appearance. The resulting "mock-up" is then used to cast the denture—a process that requires several weeks. To avoid living without teeth for the two- to three months needed for gums to heal after extractions, a temporary set of dentures is often placed in the mouth at the time of the extractions. It remains in place until a permanent or "conventional" denture can be positioned. Mouth alignment can change over time, so dentures sometimes require relining, a process that replaces and reshapes the plastic, internal surface of the denture where it rests on gum tissue.
Alternatives to dentures include dental implants and permanent (cemented bridges) as well as crowns (if teeth are structurally sound enough to support a crown). Crowns and implants cost more than dentures, but appearance and comfort are typically better.
There is big money to be saved in having your dentures made abroad; just make sure you are getting the best in materials and procedures. The average cost of full dentures in the US is US$5,000. In Costa Rica, prices run around US$850; in Mexico, US$950; in Singapore, US$775-$1,200. You might save enough on dentures to pay for your vacation, but remember: you’ll need to stay in-country for a while to complete the process, so make sure you budget enough for accommodations, meals, and local transportation during your stay.
When shopping around for affordable dentures, make sure you are comparing the same quality materials and fabrication process. Some dental clinics cut their prices by using inferior materials or stock (premade) dentures. The result may be dentures that look cheap, fit poorly, and wear out fast. Inexpensive plastics may also stain, fracture, and chip. It pays over the long haul to find (and pay for) the best, no matter where your dental work is done.
Also, don’t assume that the dentures are the only cost you need to cover. If some teeth must be removed to make room for full dentures, the cost of extractions may be extra.
Non-US dentists practicing abroad can apply for affiliate membership in the American Dental Association (ADA). Such membership is available to dentists who are practicing in a country other than the United States and who do not have an active US dental license.
The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) runs an accreditation program that serves professionals practicing in the US and abroad. Applicants for accreditation complete a rigorous credentialing process that includes a written examination, oral examination, and peer review of clinical cases.
Last updated on 2 August 2011