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Partial dentures, also called partials, are artificial replacement teeth that restore a few missing teeth in a person's mouth. They’re supported by the surrounding tissues and remaining teeth.
Your dentist may recommend partial dentures if you’ve lost one or more teeth to injury, decay, or a previous extraction.
Partial dentures are typically removable. Removable partial dentures consist of false teeth, a gum-colored base, and metal or plastic clasps.
However, these 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 in order to be effective.
Complete dentures, also called full dentures or conventional dentures, may be recommended if your remaining teeth aren’t in good condition.
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 some 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 and false teeth. The denture base is held in place by two or more clasps, usually made of metal.
This type of denture has a high degree of 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. These dentures produce aesthetic results and 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.
Flexible partials are typically only used as a temporary solution for missing teeth.
An acrylic partial denture, also called a flipper tooth, is another temporary option. It consists of 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 they’re also less comfortable. They’re not meant 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 you can get your final crown. A flipper gives you something in the meantime so that you have at least the appearance of a tooth 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 all-metal-like gold. Bridges have 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.
Dental implants entirely support these bridges. They are ideal for people who are missing three or more teeth.
Removable partial dentures cost anywhere 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. Depending on the type, a bridge can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $6,500.
It depends on your insurance plan and coverage. Many dental insurance plans cover at least some of the cost of dentures.
While there are several kinds of partial dentures, your specific needs may make some options more appropriate than others.
You can schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options. They'll examine your mouth and take the following factors into account:
With the above information, your dentist can create the right denture to suit your individual needs.
It’s possible that your dentist will determine that partial dentures aren’t the best choice for your situation. If partials aren't right for you, there are other options available.
Here are some frequently asked questions about partial dentures. All of these answers have been written or reviewed by our in-house dentist, Dr. Aggarwal.
How long a partial denture lasts depends on a variety of 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 attach the fake tooth or teeth to adjacent teeth, so there is no natural appearance of the tooth emerging from the gums.
Since metal cast partial dentures consist of a metal framework, they do not look as natural as fixed partial dentures.
Dentures with precision attachments (clear or pink clasps) cost more than metal clasps but are more natural-looking.
According to Dr. Aggarwal, you can eat with some types of partial dentures in your mouth. For example, cast metal framework partials, flexible partials, and dental bridges (traditional, cantilever, Maryland, and implant-supported). Flippers are usually only cosmetic, so you can't chew with them because they aren't strong enough.
When you first get new dentures, start by cutting up foods into small pieces and chewing on both sides of your mouth to level out the pressure. Sticky or harder foods will be more challenging to eat.
Brush your dentures with a toothbrush and liquid soap every day. It's also essential to soak your removable partial dentures in a denture cleaner every night to remove food particles and bacteria.
Metal dentures are more expensive than partial plastic dentures. However, metal dentures are more stable, fit better, and are less bulky.
Plastic dentures tend to feel looser in the mouth and are bulky. They may also take more time to get used to.
Fixed dentures, also referred to as dental bridges, are not removable. They are also more expensive than removable partial dentures.
However, removable partials do not require an invasive procedure, are easy to clean, and can be removed at any time.
Many people experience difficulty with certain sounds and with chewing. Denture sores and increased salivary flow is also common initially.
Fixed partial dentures (implant or tooth bound) and Maryland bridges are permanently glued in.
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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