Restorative dental work - fixing or replacing chipped, cracked, decayed or missing teeth - can be expensive but you pay once and you’re done, right? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Keeping your smile strong and healthy is certainly one of the best investments you can make in your health, happiness and confidence. But your fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures and dental implants do not have a lifetime guarantee. As the years pass, you’ll typically need to have restorative work adjusted, replaced or redone.
Below is a breakdown of what problems dental restorative treatment can address, how much you can expect to pay for a specific restoration, and how long you can expect it to last.
Dental fillings treat tooth decay. Fillings can be made of a metal alloy (amalgam) or a tooth-colored material such as a composite resin. A metal filling costs $110 to $200 per filling, a composite filling from $135 to $240 per filling.
Expected Lifespan: Metal alloy fillings typically will last around 10-15 years, and perhaps longer with regular dental care. Composite fillings can be expected to last for about 5 years, though that lifespan can be extended with good dental care and at-home oral hygiene.
Bonding restores decayed, chipped, broken or misshaped teeth. Your dentist paints resin onto the tooth that’s being treated, then the resin is hardened by being exposed to a high intensity light, after which the bonding is shaped and polished. Bonding typically costs $100 to $400 per tooth.
Expected lifespan: Bonding can last for 4-12 years, dependent on the location of the bonded tooth and how much damage needed to be repaired. Dentists will sometimes temporarily fix a tooth with bonding while you save up for a crown or other restorative work, in this case your bonding may have an anticipated life span of only a year or two.
Orthodontia repositions misaligned teeth, usually over a span of 18 months to 3 years. The cost is typically between $3,000 to $7,000.
Expected lifespan: Permanent, but you will almost certainly need to wear retainers following treatment to keep your new smile in position. Some orthodontists advise wearing retainers at night forever to ensure teeth don’t slowly move back into their original position. Retainers often need to be remade to fit properly.
A bridge replaces missing teeth. It consists of one or more dental crowns that have been fused together on top of a porcelain or metal base. The bridge is supported on either side by natural teeth –shaped to fit into the bridge - or dental implants. Bridges typically cost $700- $1,200 per tooth.
Expected life span: Bridges typically last 7-10 years. Fitting a bridge typically requires filling down the teeth next to the missing teeth, raising the risk of decay and/or damage in the teeth that support the crown. Seeing your dentist regularly can help extend the life of your bridge.
A crown fully or partially covers a tooth that is broken, cracked, or badly decayed. Dental crowns cost about $700 per replacement tooth.
Expected Lifespan: Crowns can last for 8-15 years or longer. If they do fail, it’s often due to a cavity forming in the area where the crown and natural tooth meet. Regular professional cleanings and checkups are a must to keep your crown/s in place for as long as possible.
Full dentures replace an entire arch (top or bottom set) of teeth. Partial dentures replace several missing teeth. The most inexpensive dentures can cost $300 for one plate (upper or lower – so $600 for a full mouth of dentures). Prices can climb to $5000 per plate, with $1,500-$2,500 per plate the price point where you’ll typically get a quality product and proper custom fit.
Expected Lifespan: The average life expectancy of a denture is 7-10 years. The denture itself is likely to last considerably longer than this, but the shape of your mouth/jawbone will change. Dentures that don’t fit can’t help you chew properly, can cause irritation to your gums, may slip out of position easily, and may not look natural. You may need an entirely new set of dentures or your dentist may be able to do a “reline” on your denture to make it fit properly again.
Implants are stronger than dentures and bridges and tend to promote long-term bone stability better than other restoration treatments. The “implant” itself is a metal post, which is implanted deeply into the bone and serves as a tooth “root.” There’s also an “abutment” that rises above the gum line and supports a dental crown. The average cost of a dental implant is around $5,000.
Expected Lifespan: With regular checkups and cleanings to maintain good oral health, a dental implant should last a lifetime.Apart from implants, you should expect all restorative dental expenses to be recurrent. To manage the expense of maintaining your oral health, consider joining a dental savings plan. These plans are the affordable alternative to dental insurance. Plan members save 10%-60% on their dental care, including those pricy restorative treatments – often even the ones like dental implants that traditional insurance doesn’t cover. Plus, you also save big on the regular check-ups and cleanings that help ensure that you’ll get the best return on your dental care investment.