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Partial dentures, also called partials, are artificial replacement teeth that replace the missing teeth in a person's mouth. They’re supported by the surrounding tissues and remaining teeth.
They cannot be made for people with no remaining teeth left or needing all their remaining teeth removed. Your dentist may recommend partial dentures if you’ve lost one or more teeth to injury, decay, or gum disease.
Partial dentures are typically removable. Removable partial dentures include:
However, partial dentures can also be fixed or permanently attached. Fixed partial dentures are also referred to as dental bridges.
Partial dentures are meant to replace a few missing teeth in your upper or lower jaw. They require healthy remaining teeth to be effective.
Complete dentures, also called full dentures or conventional dentures, may be recommended if your remaining teeth aren’t in good condition and you require a completely new set of teeth.
The type of denture you need will depend on your oral and overall health, how many teeth are missing, and your budget. The following are common options:
If you still have a number of healthy, natural teeth in your mouth, your dentist will likely recommend removable partial dentures. There are three types of removable partials, including:
Cast metal partial dentures are the most common type of removable partial dentures. They consist of a gum-colored acrylic base with an underlying metal framework and false teeth. The denture base is held in place by two or more clasps, usually made of metal.
This type of denture has high stability and is resistant to plaque build-up (with proper care). Cast metal partials are an ideal choice for those seeking a long-term solution.
Flexible partial dentures are made of a flexible plastic material and are typically a temporary solution for missing teeth. These dentures produce aesthetic results because they blend in with your natural teeth and gum tissue.
Flexible partials may be preferred for people who are allergic to acrylic. Valplast is a well-known brand that creates flexible partial dentures.
Flexible partial dentures cannot be repaired if they develop a crack or break. You must replace the entire denture.
An acrylic partial denture, also called a flipper tooth, is another temporary option. It comprises a removable acrylic base, a plastic replacement tooth or teeth, and optional metal clasps.
Flipper teeth are the least expensive type of removable denture but also the least comfortable. They’re not built to last a long time.
According to Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal, one of NewMouth's in-house dentists, "Flippers are a great short-term option. For example, if you're waiting on an implant to fully heal before getting your final crown, a flipper gives you the appearance of a tooth in the meantime instead of a gap."
Fixed partial dentures are also called dental bridges. They are non-removable dental prostheses that are glued onto the adjacent teeth. Common types of fixed partial dentures include:
Traditional bridges can be made of ceramic, porcelain-fused-to-metal, or metal like gold. Bridges contain one or more false teeth and two dental crowns on each side that hold them in place.
A cantilever bridge is similar to a traditional bridge. However, this type of bridge only supports the false tooth from one side.
Maryland bridges are made of porcelain or gold. They have “wings” that bond to the adjacent teeth, which keeps the bridge stable. This type of bridge is commonly used to replace missing front teeth.
Implant-supported bridges attach to small titanium posts embedded in the jaw. You must undergo surgery to receive implant-supported restorations. They are ideal for people who are missing three or more teeth.
Removable partial dentures cost between $650 and $2,500 (upper or lower, not both). Flexible partial dentures range from $900 to $2,000, while flipper teeth cost between $300 and $500.
A fixed denture (dental bridge) is the most expensive option. Depending on the type, a bridge can cost between $1,500 and $6,500.
It depends on your insurance plan and coverage. Many dental insurance plans cover at least part of the cost of dentures.
It is important to clean your partial denture daily. Daily hygiene depends on whether your dentures are removable or fixed.
Use the following cleaning tips to care for your removable partial denture properly:
When cleaning your denture, always fill the sink with water or lay a towel down. A partial can break on a hard surface.
Fixed dentures look, feel, and function like normal teeth. Denture hygiene, then, looks a lot like normal dental hygiene and includes the following:
Schedule regular check-ups with your dentist or prosthodontist to discuss any necessary denture hygiene and maintenance procedures.
While there are several types of partial dentures, your specific needs will make some options more appropriate than others.
You can schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options. They'll examine your mouth, taking the following factors into account:
Depending on your circumstances, your dentist can create the right denture to suit your individual needs.
Your dentist could determine that partial dentures aren’t the best choice for you. If partials aren't right for you, other options exist. Alternatives include overdentures, dental implants, and full dentures.
Choosing the best dentures for you is a time- and research-intensive process. Our in-house dentist, Dr. Aggarwal has written and/or reviewed the following frequently asked questions to help you understand your options.
How long a partial denture lasts depends on various factors, such as your bite and how well you maintain your denture over time, says Dr. Aggarwal. A denture can last many years but may need modifications as your mouth changes.
No. Partial dentures have an acrylic base with attached prosthetic teeth, so there is no natural appearance of the tooth emerging from the gums.
Since metal-cast partial dentures contain a metal framework, they do not look as natural as fixed partial dentures.
Dentures with clear or pink clasps cost more than metal clasps but appear more natural.
According to Dr. Aggarwal, you can eat with certain partial dentures in your mouth. Cast metal framework partials, flexible partials, and dental bridges—traditional, cantilever, Maryland, and implant-supported—allow for eating normally.
Flippers are usually only cosmetic and not strong enough to support chewing.
When you get new dentures, start by cutting food into small pieces and chewing on both sides of your mouth to level the pressure. Sticky or harder foods will be more challenging to eat.
Metal dentures are more expensive than partial plastic dentures. However, metal dentures are more stable and adapt better to your mouth.
Plastic dentures tend to feel looser in the mouth. They may also take more time to get used to.
Fixed dentures, also referred to as dental bridges, are not removable. They are better suited to your mouth and more esthetically pleasing than removable dentures. However, bridges are more expensive than removable partial dentures.
Removable partials do not require invasive procedures, are easy to clean, and can be removed anytime.
The best denture for you depends on your needs and preferences.
Many people experience difficulty with certain sounds and with chewing. Denture sores and increased salivary flow are also common for new denture wearers.
Fixed partial dentures (implant or tooth-bound) and Maryland bridges are permanently glued in. Removable dentures stay in place primarily by the suctioning effect of their close fit against the underlying gum or via clasps that wrap around the tooth.
After you adjust to your new dentures, you'll need to visit your dentist at least twice a year for routine check-ups. This is the same for patients who don't have dentures.
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