But what exactly are they and how much do they cost? We investigate to help you fill in the gaps.
What is a single-tooth denture?
Single-tooth dentures are an option for those with missing teeth and can be used as an alternative to a tooth implant, according to Authority Dental. The replacement teeth are connected to a gum-coloured base and, usually, a metal framework to create the denture. Unlike full-mouth dentures, partial dentures fill in only a select number of teeth.
Though the term ‘dentures’ initially led me to think of my grandfather and his replacement teeth, it seems that they aren’t just available for older generations. Owner and principal dentist at MyHillsDentist, David Lee, explains to Canstar that dentures can be an option for replacing teeth at any age and for a variety of reasons.
I may be 20 with a partial denture, but dang I’m in love ?? pic.twitter.com/AkjmTmItxn
— abbygail ? (@Abbster028) January 16, 2017
Types of partial and single-tooth dentures
There are four main types of dentures in Australia – acrylic, chrome/metal, flexible and clear clasp.
- Acrylic: Teeth are bonded onto an acrylic base with a metal clasp attached to hold the denture in place.
- Chrome/metal: Rather than plastic, the denture is made from cast metal, making it a more permanent solution.
- Flexible: Made with materials such as nylon, the flexibility removes the need for any clasps.
- Clear clasp: If you’d prefer to not show metal and have your denture remain somewhat undetected, clear clasps are made from thermoplastic material and provide that option.
The kind of partial denture available will depend on your dentist and what options they recommend.
How much will a single-tooth denture cost?
Like any dental procedure, multiple circumstances can come into play, making an exact price hard to predict. However, at Northern Rivers Denture Clinic, prices for partial dentures start at $600 whilst at Face Value Dental, prices begin at $699. Dr Jamie Workman estimates the price range for acrylic dentures to be $600-$1,000, cobalt chrome dentures to be $900 – $1,700 and flexidentures to be $900-$1,300. Consider asking a number of dentists for a price quote, as you may be able to save by shopping around.
Can single-tooth dentures be covered by private health insurance?
According to health insurer, Defence Health, if you have an extras policy that includes ‘Major Dental’, partial costs should be covered, but you will still generally incur out-of-pocket expenses.
For ‘Major Dental’ treatments like partial dentures, most insurers will require you to serve a waiting period of six to 12 months after taking out the policy before you can make a claim, according to Members Own who are a representative group for not-for-profit health funds.
Does Medicare cover single-tooth dentures?
According to AestheticDentures, Medicare only covers treatments that are deemed medically necessary. For example, if you were in a car accident and needed a tooth removed as apart of a surgical procedure, the costs might be covered. However, Medicare generally won’t cover the price of anything beyond that, such as filling the gap in your teeth with a denture, as this would be seen as a cosmetic procedure.
Can single-tooth dentures be covered through the public health system?
Each state and territory has its own way of assessing whether you qualify to be placed on the public health waiting list to receive dental treatment. For example, in Queensland, patients who need new dentures must either have a referral from a dentist or undergo a clinical assessment before they can be allocated to a waiting list.
In New South Wales, the Department of Health states that you must ring your Local Health District public health call centre number and answer any questions asked about your current dental situation. You will either be given an appointment or placed on a waiting list, depending on the severity of the issue.
Payment plan options for single-tooth dentures
Stats from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggest that 32% of people aged five and over avoided or delayed a visit to the dentist due to the cost involved, and around one in five Australians aged five and over who visited the dentist in the 12 months before the survey had avoided recommended treatment because of the price.
This may be part of the reason why some dentists now allow customers to fund their treatment through a payment plan. This can involve patients paying for their treatment in instalments after it has been carried out, whether it is through a plan offered by the dental clinic itself or via a third party, such as a ‘buy now, pay later’ service or another credit provider.
With an in-house plan, the dental office should explain the terms and conditions to you, as each practice will differ. Once a payment plan is organised and the treatment is carried out, repayments would be made directly to your dentist. With a third party payment plan, your treatment cost would be paid fully to your dentist, and you would in turn make repayments to the credit provider in installments. Terms and conditions are set by the provider, including the credit limit you can access. Late payment fees may also apply to either option.
Dr Lee says third-party financing assists some of his patients in accessing necessary dental treatment that they might not otherwise be able to fund themselves.
“It isn’t just discretionary dentistry that is being financed; it is treatments that can have positive impacts on a person’s health and well-being,” he said.
However, some experts have described the increasing reliance among some patients on services like Afterpay in order to medical or dental fund treatment as an ‘unhealthy development‘.
In addition, ASIC’s MoneySmart website suggests that before signing up with any third-party financing service, consumers should investigate the plan thoroughly and look out for costs such as late payment, monthly-account keeping and payment-processing fees. It explains that unlike when you take out a loan from a bank, ‘buy-now-pay-later’ providers generally do not check your ability to make repayments or investigate your credit history, which could cause consumers to take on more credit than they can afford to repay.
MoneySmart also mentions these services can affect your credit score, as some providers do report information such as late payments to credit reporting agencies.
As well as newer credit services such as those offered by ‘buy now, pay later’ providers, some more traditional lenders offer what are commonly called ‘dental loans’, which are personal loans designed to cover a range of dental bills. If you are considering taking out a dental loan to help pay for a partial denture or other treatment, make sure you can afford to repay the loan within the specified time period and bear in mind the impact the repayments might have on your existing commitments, as well as your credit score. It can also be a good idea to shop around and compare features such as interest rates, fees and charges.
Is dental tourism an option?
Dental tourism, whereby Australians travel overseas to have dental work carried out is another option which some people may be considering. However, the Australian Dental Association warns that qualification standards among dentists in other countries may not be the same as they are in Australia. It adds that other risks associated with this option can include the increased danger of post-procedure infection and patients trying to squeeze multiple procedures into a short ‘holiday’ and not allowing enough time for recovery from each surgery.
Side effects of partial dentures
Anything such as a partial denture that is added to the mouth may well take a bit of getting used to. During the first time wearing it, according to Queensland Health, you may experience:
- A difference in speech
- Odd sense of taste
- Difficulty eating
- Difference in mouth appearance
If symptoms persist, Queensland Health recommends making an appointment with a dental professional.
Dr Lee describes dentures being like a new pair of shoes, as they can take some time to get used to.
“99% of patients will require some level of adjustment during follow-up visits, to address the side effects they experience,” he said.
Taking care of your partial dentures
To ensure you get the most out of your new dentures, Dental Health Services of Victoria recommends:
- Chewing soft foods to begin with
- Removing your dentures before bed each night.
- Using a soft toothbrush and mild soap or denture paste and water to clean your new dentures.
Queensland Health also recommends the following:
- Handling your dentures over a towel or sink full of water, due to how fragile they are. If dropped on a hard surface, they may break.
- Keeping your dentures clean, as they do attract plaque like natural teeth.
- Keeping them in water when they aren’t being used to avoid them drying out
Here are some key points that can help you with denture care and maintenance
a) Placing a #denture in water.
b) Denture adhesives are not a remedy for ill-fitting dentures
c) Dentures should never be placed in #hot or boiling water.#DentureCare #DentureMaintenance #Brisbane pic.twitter.com/vIS6VBsSr0
— denturesquare (@denturesquare) November 22, 2019
Continuing the footwear analogy, Dr Lee points out that you don’t leave your shoes on when you go to bed, so why would you leave your dentures in? He recommends taking dentures out at night, while also paying attention to ongoing maintenance.
“The supporting structures in your mouth – teeth, gums, and jaw bone – need some relief,” he said.
“Rinse the dentures after every meal, and give them a more thorough clean at the end of the day. There are many types of denture cleaning products available at pharmacies and supermarkets. Also, bring them back to your dentist or prosthetist for assessment and maintenance,” Dr Lee advised.
Main image source: wutzkohphoto (Shutterstock)