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What are Partial Dentures?

Partial dentures, also called partials, are artificial replacement teeth that restore a few missing teeth in a person's mouth. The surrounding tissues in the oral cavity support these dentures.

Partial dentures are often necessary if you’ve lost some teeth due to:

  • Severe tooth decay
  • Periodontal disease (advanced gum disease)
  • A facial or jaw injury 
  • Tooth extraction 
  • Poor dental care
  • Certain genetic or systemic diseases

Partial dentures are typically removable. Removable partial dentures consist of false teeth, a gum-colored base, and metal or plastic clasps.

These dentures can also be fixed to the mouth, which means they are permanent. Fixed partial dentures are also referred to as dental bridges. 

removable partial denture NewMouth

Partial Dentures vs. Complete Dentures

Partial dentures replace a few missing teeth in your upper or lower jaw. If you still have some natural teeth remaining, removable partial dentures are an excellent option. 

Complete dentures, also called full dentures or conventional dentures, are removable prosthetic teeth that replace your entire set of teeth. Full dentures are used when no teeth remain in the upper and/or lower jaws, or if someone needs all of their teeth removed.

Summary

Partial dentures replace a few missing teeth. They can be removable or fixed.

Types of Partial Dentures

The type of denture you need depends on your oral and general health standing, how many teeth are missing, and your budget:

Removable Partial Dentures

Removable partial dentures are removable dental prostheses. 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:

1. Cast metal partial denture

A cast metal framework partial is the most common type of removable partial denture. Cast metal partial dentures 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.  

2. Flexible partial denture

Flexible partial dentures are made of a flexible plastic material. These dentures produce high aesthetic results and blend in with your natural teeth and gum tissue.

Flexible partials are an excellent choice for patients 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. 

3. Acrylic partial denture (flipper)

An acrylic partial denture is often a temporary option that consists of a removable acrylic base, a plastic replacement tooth or teeth, and optional metal clasps. It's less effective and comfortable than a cast metal partial denture.

Acrylic partials are the least expensive type of removable denture and are 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

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:

1. Traditional bridge

Traditional bridges can be made of ceramic, porcelain-fused-to-metal, or all-metal-like gold. Bridges have one or more fake teeth and two dental crowns on each side that hold them in place. 

2. Cantilever bridge

A cantilever bridge is similar to a traditional bridge. However, this type of bridge only supports the fake tooth from one side. 

3. Maryland bridge

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. 

4. Implant-supported bridge

Dental implants entirely support these bridges. They are ideal for people who are missing three or more teeth.

Summary

There are three types of removable partial dentures, including cast metal framework partials, flexible partials, and acrylic partials (flippers). Fixed partial denture options include dental bridges (traditional, cantilever, Maryland, and implant-supported).

How Much Do Partial Dentures Cost?

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.

Does Insurance Cover Partial Dentures?

It depends on your insurance plan and coverage. Many dental insurance plans cover at least some of the cost of dentures.

Summary

Partial dentures cost between $300 and $6,500 (depending on the type). Most insurance plans partially cover these dentures.

Tips for Choosing the Best Partial Denture

Talking to your dentist about options is the best first step. They'll examine your mouth and take the following factors into account:

  1. Your mouth anatomy
  2. How many remaining teeth you have
  3. Your gum and soft tissue health
  4. Your desired outcome
  5. Your overall health (for example, if you can undergo surgery)

Also, let them know if you have any allergies or concerns about wearing dentures. They can help you decide whether removable or fixed partials are a better fit.

Partial Denture Alternatives

If your dentist decides that partials aren't right for you, there are other options available.

Some alternatives include overdentures, dental implants, and full dentures.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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 does a partial denture last?

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.

Do partial dentures look natural?

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. 

Can you eat with partials?

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.

Is a metal or plastic partial denture better?

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. 

Is a bridge or removable partial denture better?

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.

What do new dentures feel like?

Many people experience difficulty with certain sounds and with chewing. Denture sores and increased salivary flow is also common initially.

How do partial dentures stay in place?

Fixed partial dentures (implant or tooth bound) and Maryland bridges are permanently glued in.

How often should you visit your dentist if you have dentures?

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.

Last updated on May 3, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on May 3, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. “Dental Implant Surgery | AAOMS.” AAOMS Official Site | Experts in Face, Mouth, and Jaw Surgery, myoms.org/procedures/dental-implant-surgery.
  3. Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
  4. MouthHealthy, Removable Partial Dentures. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/dentures-partial.
  5. Singh, Kunwarjeet et al., Flexible thermoplastic denture base materials for aesthetical removable partial denture framework., Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR vol. 7,10 : 2372-3, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3843478/.
  6. Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.
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