Nowadays, tooth loss is much rarer than it once was. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the number of people with partial or total tooth loss has fallen significantly since the 1970s. That doesn’t mean people still don’t still their teeth.
One option available to 178 million people who are missing at least one tooth is replacing that tooth with a dental implant.
Approximately 2.3 million dental implants are made each year to permanently replace lost teeth. That begs the question, how much do dental implants cost and are you really getting good value for your money when you get them?
Dental implants versus other replacement options
Two of the most common options for replacing a missing tooth or teeth are dental implants and dentures. The big difference between the two is the way they fit in your mouth and how much they cost.
Dentures aren’t permanently attached to your gums or jawbone. They are meant to be removed at night, so that you don’t accidently swallow them. Dentures can replace just one tooth or all of your teeth.
Dental implants also can replace a single tooth or multiple teeth. Unlike dentures, dental implants are permanently fixed in your mouth, held in place by a titanium post. The post is covered by a crown that looks like a natural tooth.
Dentures tend to cost less than implants. A full set of dentures might run about $2,500. A single implant starts at $3,000. If you want to replace multiple teeth, the cost climbs to $11,500. It can reach up to $45,000.
Big picture cost of dental implants
Although you might get sticker shock when you find out how much a dental implant costs, it helps to look at the big picture. While implants cost more upfront than dentures, you are less likely to need to replace them. The success rate of implants is as high as 95 percent.
Meanwhile, dentures tend to wear down over time. They usually need to be replaced every few years, which adds to their total cost. You might pay $2,000 for dentures one year, then need to pay another $2,000 to get a new set in a few years.
Insurance coverage for dental implants
Having dental insurance may lower the upfront cost of getting dental implants. Many insurance companies don’t provide coverage, because they don’t view implants as necessary.
Some insurance companies expect you to get a pretreatment estimate from your dentist before you get the implants. With the estimate in hand, your insurance provider can confirm which services are covered and provide you with a fair idea of what you can expect to pay out of pocket.
Ways to lower the cost of implants
If you don’t have the cash on hand to cover the cost of dental implants and your insurance policy doesn’t cover them, you have a few options for getting the treatment for a reduced cost.
One option is to sign up for a dental discount plan. Discount plans typically charge you an annual or monthly fee. In exchange, you get a certain percentage off the cost of dental treatments, including dental implants.
Another way to get dental implants for a lower than average cost is to visit a dental school. A dental student that is supervised by a professor will place your implants. Since it’s a trainee who’s performing the treatment, the price is usually significantly lower than average.
Using money from a flexible spending account or a health savings account can allow you to pay for your dental implants, using tax-free dollars. While you won’t reduce the cost of the implants themselves, since you are using untaxed dollars, you can save up to 20 percent, depending on your tax bracket.
Dental implants aren’t cheap, but they are usually a one-and-done treatment. It’s up to you to decide if you want to pay a higher price up front for replacement teeth that will last a long time, or pay less now and have to replace your dentures in a few years.
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