The ADA reports that 120 million US citizens are missing at least one tooth. Not replacing those can lead to poor nutrition, bone loss, and changes in the shape of the face. The most popular solution when some teeth remain is a partial denture.
Together with our dental team we have prepared a fact sheet on partial dentures. Read to find out what options you have.Creative Commons
What is a partial denture?
A partial denture is a removable plate with one or more false teeth attached. It is fitted when some teeth are lost. The false dentition fills in the gaps.
They often have clasps that hook onto remaining teeth. This way the prosthesis stays in place when you are going about your day. Precision attachments might be added for extra support and sturdiness.
Depending on what teeth you are missing, partial dentures can be made for just the back or front teeth. A combination is also possible.
There are different materials to choose from. Your dentist is the best person to ask which is right for you. The most important factors are the amount of the remaining teeth and the cost of the denture you are ready to cover.
Acrylic partial dentures
The most popular material for partial dentures is resin plastic. This material can be dyed so that the color matches your gums. Acrylic dentures belong to the cheaper types. You can even have teeth added if you lose more. More acrylic is simply bonded to accommodate the addition. Acrylic partial dentures can last 5-8 years.
The downside is that they break easily, so you may have to replace them more often. Plastic dentures may also need adhesives, generating more running costs. They sometimes have metal clasps, but most commonly plastic partials are simply embedded in the resin and can break off.
Acrylic put a lot of pressure on your gums. This can lead to irritation, soreness, and even lesions. Some patients have trouble with gagging, as in the case of the upper arch, the acrylic covers your entire palate.
- Most affordable partial dentures
- Color can be matched to the existing gums
- Break more easily
- Adhesives are sometimes necessary
- Cover your entire palate
- Patients often have to endure gagging with this option
- Can damage neighboring teeth
Flexible partial dentures
This type doesn’t need adhesives or metal clasps, since they cling to the gums by themselves. The structure is less stiff and rigid than acrylic dentures.
The material is clear and gums are visible, providing great aesthetics. Flexible dentures are also very quick to produce and not as expensive as metal cast ones.
- No need for adhesives or visible clasps
- Flexible structure
- Not bulky
- Clear material for better aesthetics
- Quick to produce
- Less expensive than metal partials
- If they break, they can’t be fixed
Metal partial dentures
Metal partial dentures are more lightweight and durable than plastic ones. It is easier to support them with the use of clasps and adjacent teeth. Your palate does need to be covered. Appreciating fine dining is a lot easier because they stay in better and trap less food.
Cobalt chrome is most commonly used. It provides a great balance between toughness and flexibility. Metal partial dentures are unlikely to fracture even on trauma. They can last up to 10 years.
The base is metal covered in plastic. Metal parts may be visible in your mouth. The downside is that this option is usually quite expensive. What makes up for this is that more teeth may be added along the way.
- Less bulky and more comfortable in the mouth
- Palate is not covered
- Won’t fracture due to trauma
- Can last many years, but usually used for a few months
- Base is covered with plastic for better aesthetics
- More expensive than plastic
- Metal clasps may be visible in the mouth
Interim partial dentures
Interim partial dentures are often made from acrylic. They are designed for the filler period after you get your teeth removed and before you get your permanent denture.
This type provides a quick solution if you don’t want to go without teeth at all. Designed to be temporary, you shouldn’t wear them for longer than a few months.
Fake dentition can be placed in the exact same position your natural tooth was. Interim dentures also provide occlusal support and make eating and speaking easier.
- Does not need relines or adjustments
- Can work as a spare after you get your definitive denture
- Generally not covered by insurance and must be paid for out-of-pocket
- Temporary solution
If you decide a denture is not the right choice for you, you can explore some alternatives. Those include dental implants, denture implants, bridges, or maybe full dentures.
What is the best type of partial dentures?
This depends on the needs of the patient and the state of the remaining teeth. Metal cast dentures are the most expensive but also the most durable. On the other hand, acrylic dentures are the most common.
How soon after extraction can I get a partial denture?
It may take up to 12 weeks to get a partial denture after a tooth is removed. This may be shorter if your mouth heals quickly. The cast, however, must often be done when the situation in your mouth settles.
Should I take my denture out at night?
Yes. Taking your partial denture out before sleeping ensures it doesn’t get damaged. What’s more, it gives you a great opportunity to keep up with your dentist’s hygiene instructions. Clean your partial with a soft-bristled toothbrush and keep it in water overnight.
What is the alternative to a partial denture?
There are a few alternatives to partial dentures. The best one would probably be a dental implant, an implant-supported bridge, or a tooth-borne bridge, depending on where the missing tooth is. This solution is quite expensive, but doesn’t generate any running costs and gives you the most comfort in eating and speaking.
If you are only missing one or two teeth that are next to each other, you can consider a flipper tooth. They are cheap and quick to produce. Flipper teeth, however, should only be a temporary solution.
Can I eat with partial dentures?
Yes. In fact, partial dentures were designed to make eating easier. It’s a good idea to take your denture out after a meal and brush your teeth along with the prosthesis. This way you avoid tooth decay and plaque buildup.
Nonetheless, it is advised that you avoid very hard or crunchy food if you wear plastic partials. Any food that involves tearing can damage solitary teeth on a partial.
How long does it take to get partial dentures?
If you don’t need any extractions, getting a partial denture can take 6 weeks up to 3 months. This may be longer if you have conditions such as periodontitis which should be fixed before a dental impression is taken.