Dentures

Your Guide to Top-Quality, Affordable Dentistry

Dentures 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.

Why It Works for Medical Tourism | Planning Ahead | Accreditation and Certification | Dental Tourism Do's and Don'ts

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.

Why It Works for Medical Tourism

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.

Planning Ahead

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.

Accreditation and Certification

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.

Dental Tourism Do's and Don'ts

  • Do make sure you check and understand the specifics of your dental insurance plan, if you have one. Some plans cover full or partial costs for dentures. Find out how your coverage is affected if you travel for dental care.
  • Poorly crafted ill-fitting dentures are a nightmare. Do insist on the best materials, crafting procedures, and follow-up adjustments.
  • Do ask for a cost estimate in writing. Although the estimate may change once the dentist is able to review your needs in person, it is important to have an agreed upon point of departure.
  • Dentistry can be painful, especially if you compress a lot of work into a short period of time. If you are highly sensitive to pain, do discuss pain management with your dentists—both at home and out-of-country.
  • Do ask if all your work can be done in one trip; your savings decline if you have to travel twice.
  • Do ask about compatibility of any parts or materials used. Standard dental practices, supplies, and equipment vary among countries. Incompatibilities can create problems for follow-up care at home.
  • Do remember to request x-rays, estimates, test results, and other documentation to share with your at-home dentist so you don’t have to pay for more later. Most will supply you x-rays in digital format. Ask for jpg files.
  • Do ask for patient references. A successful practice should be more than happy to share positive outcomes.
  • Don’t fall for showy websites. Find out about your clinic’s good standing and accreditation, as well as your dentist’s training, credentials, board certification, and experience. The process of planning, forming, and placing dentures requires expertise. Make sure your dentist has plenty.
  • Last updated on 2 August 2011