I’ve been out of the country for ten years. My brother had been taking care of my mother who has Alzheimers. I plan on staying here for a year and then moving her to Europe with me. I’ve come back because my brother’s wife is ill so I’m taking over my mother’s care. I was appalled at the state of her mouth. One of the first things I did was schedule her a dental appointment. She needs so much work (three teeth pulled, a handful of crowns, several fillings, etc), the dentist suggested I just extract her teeth and give her dentures and be done with her teeth. Is that an affordable way to deal with a neglected mouth?
It’s great that you’re stepping up and taking care of your mother during your brother’s difficulties with his wife’s health. Alzheimers makes being a caregiver quite challenging so I’m sure he’s grateful for your help.
Every dentist’s philosophy is a little different (along with their prices). In general, full dentures can cost anywhere from $1300 to $3500 per arch. Tooth extractions can cost between $75-$400 per tooth. If cost alone is your only deciding factor, I’d simply ask the dentist you prefer for prices on dentures versus the sum of all the individual procedures needed without dentures. However, I’m going to suggest there are other factors to consider. then suggest affordable dental alternatives.
Dentures Have Problems
- Her chewing capacity will go down significantly
- They move and will get food under them
- They’re not as comfortable as other options
- They”ll cause her to lose jaw bone
Alzheimers is a Factor
Alzheimer patients are forgetful. Because this solution is a removable one, it may be hard for her to keep up with their maintenance as well as just where she puts them for the evening. It’s very likely she’ll remove them.
Some Alzheimer patients can grow angry and violent. It’s not a judgment on your mother (or any other person affected by this horrible disease). It’s more a matter of this is how many of them respond because they’re frightened, not hostile by nature. You’ll need to consider whether she’ll cooperate with keeping them in or not.
Preserving Tooth Structure is Better for Her Health
Given the downside of dentures, many patients grow to dread mealtime. It’s important she receives good nutrition as part of her treatment. If eating becomes painful, she may refuse, not realizing she’s actually harming herself.
However, the biggest problem is facial collapse. I mentioned earlier that her jawbone will begin to shrink. Eventually, she’ll lose enough bone structure that her jaw will no longer be able to retain her dentures, making her a dental cripple. Then, she’ll have no way to eat and will essentially be relegated to a liquid diet.
Instead, you might want to consider getting dental implants for her teeth which can’t be saved. This preserves her jawbone and makes it much easier for her to eat.
Affordable Ways to get a Lot of Dental Work Done.
In your place, I’d ask the dentist to list out all the work she needs done in order of most urgent to least. Phased treatment is a great way to save money. It allows you to do the work a little at a time as finances allow.
Be careful to distinguish between affordable versus cheap dentistry. Let’s say one dentist charges $600 for a dental crown and the other $1000. You might think saving $400 is a really good deal. Now let’s say the $600 dentist uses subpar materials in order to make up his profit margin and you end up replacing it three times before the $1000 crown ever needs replacing. Are you still saving money? You want affordable quality, not cheap.
Almost every dentist I know is willing to work with Care Credit, a medical credit card. They only fund medical procedures and have very workable terms, including some with zero interest. Also, there’s no penalty for paying it off early. This may allow you to get a little extra work done.
This blog is brought to you by Dr. Raymond Bolt.