What Is A Partial Denture? A partial denture is a removable device used to replace one or more missing teeth. Most partial dentures use clips or clasps to hold onto remaining teeth. Many times the teeth the partial denture is to be clipped to must be changed in minor ways to best allow this to happen. Most simply, a partial denture is a retainer with teeth added.
What Is A Partial Denture Made Of? The retainer portion may be made out of metal, nylon, or acrylic. The teeth are plastic, which is much softer than your natural teeth, so care must be given to eating hard or crunchy foods. In fact, your diet may need to change based upon what foods you can chew well with your partial denture.
Is It Permanent Or Temporary? In our office, a partial removable denture is seen as a temporary fix. All partial dentures can cause future problems such as loosening of the teeth they are clipped to, wear on the teeth they are clipped to, gum soreness, and continued loss of jawbone. With this in mind we always recommend that a long term plan should be in place for the replacement of your missing teeth so that these problems can be avoided.
How Long Can I Wear It? All partial dentures need to be removed after every meal, cleansed well, and should be left out at night to give your gums a rest. Failure to leave the partial out at night can cause infections and/or increase the rate at which the remaining teeth fail.
There are four main types of partial dentures in use today. You dentist will make a recommendation as to which type we feel is a best fit for your particular situation.
Healing Partial A “healing partial” is constructed out of acrylic with acrylic teeth. The clips are thick wire that is bent around a few of the remaining teeth. We call this a “healing partial” because it is the best partial for us to use if we are going to remove teeth and need something to replace them immediately. This allows us to make sure that our patients never go without teeth. This is the least expensive option for a partial denture, but also the shortest expected usable lifespan. The acrylic base and teeth can stain and show wear within a few months and the clips tend to lose shape and hold.
Cast Metal Partial A custom cast frame is made from a mold of your remaining teeth. Many times the remaining teeth must be slightly modified to allow the casting to seat and hold properly. After the cast frame has been made and we make sure that it fits well, we will re-send the partial to the lab to have the teeth added. The teeth are still acrylic, but the underlying metal makes everything much stronger and longer lived. This type of partial is a fantastic choice for many of our patients, but the trade off is aesthetics. In some instances the shiny metal of the framework may be seen. This design also tends to put a lot of force on the clasping teeth, so attention and care must be given to the remaining teeth.
Flexible Partial This type goes by many names, most commonly heard are Valplast, Flexite, or simply a flexible partial. It is constructed from nylon which is incredibly strong, yet flexible. Even the clips and clasps are made from nylon, which can be tooth colored or gum colored, so these tend to be very aesthetic because there is no metal. The teeth are also very hard which makes them last longer with less chance of breaking. The trade off is that these partials tend to be so flexible that they move around a little while chewing and can make the gums sore. Many of our patients find that a little bit of denture adhesive can help hold this type of partial well and alleviate gum soreness. This partial has one other huge drawback, it is not easily repaired. If anything changes in the mouth, for example if another tooth is lost, the partial will need to go to a special lab for repair which can take up to a week.
Hybrid A “hybrid” partial is a traditional cast metal partial with nylon clips, clasps, and teeth added. In most cases this gives exceptional fit without any aesthetic issues since the metal is hidden. The only drawback to this type of partial is that it is also difficult to repair.