When you have lost your teeth, there are some tooth replacement options that can offer a cosmetic look and an improved smile. Partial dentures are one of those great choices that are designed to replace partially missing teeth. Therefore, if you have lost several teeth or still have some healthy teeth remaining in your mouth, partial dentures can provide you with the tooth replacement that you want.
What are partial dentures?
Partial dentures, aka partials, are dentures to replace multiple missing teeth. By definition, partial dentures are dentures that use your natural remaining teeth, the oral soft tissues (like your gums), or even an implant to stay in place. Partial dentures can take the place of your lost teeth in both upper or lower partially missing areas in your mouth using either fixed or removable denture designs.
The name dentures connotates a variety of types and designs each one of them is appropriate in its place.
For those individuals looking for an affordable replacement to improve chewing or speaking with functional and cosmetic benefits, partials are a great option.
Types of partial dentures
Partial dentures come in different forms. Although the dentist will recommend the best option after careful evaluation, patients have the final choice as the wearer. Some of the common types of partials include:
Removable partial dentures
Removable partial dentures (RPD) have been in use in dentistry for years to fill the gaps of missing teeth.
A removable partial denture uses metallic clasps or retainers around the remaining natural teeth next to the missing area for the retention of the dentures. These natural teeth are called abutments and dentists prepare the adjacent abutment in advance to retain your partial denture.
Removable partials have a gum-colored acrylic resin base that seats on your gum. On top of this acrylic base, artificial teeth are attached depending on the number of teeth that are missing. As the name suggests, removable partial dentures can be removed by yourself. The most common designs are:
Cast metal partial denture
Cast metal partial denture is the most common removable partial denture. It consists of a major connector and minor connectors and also a soft gum-colored acrylic resin base.
The major connector is the metal framework that acts as a foundation for your partial denture. It is made of chromium cobalt or other alloys like titanium. The minor connectors are other metal parts that twist around your adjacent teeth. The minor connector consists of retainers, clasps, rests, and metal bars that are used for maximum stability and retention. After preparing the framework, now comes the acrylic resin base. It wraps around some part of the framework to avoid soft tissue irritation and attach artificial teeth on top.
- Maximum stability and retention
- Tough and rigid against breakage
- Used widely to replace as many teeth that a partial denture can hold
- More metal visibility and may not be as esthetic
- Not favored by those who are allergic to metal or feel uncomfortable with metal contact in their mouth
Flexible partial denture
Flexible partial dentures are made from lighter and thinner thermoplastic nylon resin material. In addition, their esthetic is improved since there are no more visible metal clasps or retainer arms to wrap around your tooth. On the other hand, the bulkier plastic material is used in its design. This helps prevent the plastic from breaking and provides stability in your mouth. Although flexible partial dentures are beautiful and blend in with the appearance of your teeth, they may not be a permanent solution for tooth replacement.
- Esthetics and no visibility of metal
- Suitable for those who have allergies to metal and other metal alloys
- Less stability
- High possibility of getting cracked and is not a tough denture
Acrylic partial denture (known as dental flipper)
Acrylic partial denture, also called dental flipper, is another popular partial denture type. A dental flipper has clasps to wind around your natural teeth and an acrylic base to sit on your gums and oral soft tissues. A dental flipper is a much more affordable and comfortable option for missing teeth replacement. It was originally designed as a temporary prosthetic tooth for covering lost front teeth. Although dental flipper tooth is affordable, you shouldn’t expect the stability and long-lasting features as in cast metal framework partial dentures.
- Affordable and less expensive compared to other partial dentures
- Easy removal and easy manufacturing
- Mainly for temporary usage and not for a long time wear
- May break especially when made with low-quality material
Fixed partial dentures
Fixed partial dentures (FPD), also known as dental bridges, are other widely used partial dentures that are bonded, cemented, or mechanically fixed in place.
They go by the name dental bridges and come in plenty of designs to satisfy your needs. Your dentist uses your remaining natural teeth or even implants as abutments to hold the dentures. There is no metal framework as in removable partial dentures. Instead, your dentist uses all-metal, all-ceramic, or porcelain fused to metal as the crown for your abutment. They may use veneers made of metal or porcelain which are all bonded and cemented to the natural teeth next to the missing teeth area. Then pontics, which are your artificial teeth, are attached together with soldering or bonding agent. Finally, artificial teeth are mounted on a lighter gum-colored base or just cemented in place.
Conventional fixed partial denture (traditional bridges)
Conventional fixed bridges, or traditional bridges, use natural teeth on each end of the missing space as an abutment to fix the fake teeth in between. This is why fixed partial dentures bear the name bridge. The porcelain or other metal alloys are bonded on the back or other necessary surfaces of your natural teeth, which are called veneers. For teeth that are weak, a complete metal or ceramic crown can be made on natural teeth. This acts like a retainer and fix the artificial teeth tightly in your mouth.
- Stable and good retention
- Replace as many teeth as it can if there are multiple remaining teeth in between or if implants are inserted in jaws
- May cost more
- More dental work
- Not used for larger edentulous spaces in a row (missing a larger number of teeth)
Cantilevered bridge is one type of fixed partial denture that uses just one tooth to support the artificial tooth. There is no other difference with conventional partial dentures. So, instead of two abutments, the dentist prepares one natural tooth on the side of the missing lost teeth.
- Easy process and making
- Provide a wide range of applications for missing teeth replacement
- Great option when combined or supported by dental implants
- Poor stability
- Not a long-lasting treatment
Resin-bonded fixed partial denture (prepless bridge)
Another common fixed partial denture is resin-bonded partial dentures, which are used mainly for replacing 1 or 2 lost teeth. One common type is the Maryland bridge. Resin-bonded partials are the most conservative fixed partial denture because it doesn’t need much dental work on enamel for abutment tooth preparation. Instead, a thin layer of metal alloys is bonded to the enamel of the adjacent teeth for the retention of artificial teeth.
- Feel natural and beautiful with no bulky form
- Favored by children and teenagers and a great temporary solution
- Not used for multiple missing teeth
- Not used as a longtime permanent tooth replacement
Dental implant is the most stable and natural way to replace any missing teeth. You might want to seek a dental implant to replace your lost teeth. However, it may not be possible to have implants for all of your teeth due to low jawbone quality and the higher cost of dental implants. Your dentist, therefore, chooses the best location and a minimum number of implants to hold your partial denture in place. This way, you enjoy a tightly fit denture in your mouth with no sore spots and irritations.
Pros and cons of dentures
Pros of wearing dentures
Improved appearance and enhanced smile
No one wants gapped teeth with large missing areas of a lost tooth. Partial dentures have evolved into many designs and types to make your smile beautiful. Consult your dentist for the most suitable option according to your preferences.
High self-esteem and confident personality
Dentures will transform your appearance in the best way that you can imagine. Therefore, with partials in your mouth, you enjoy your communications with others and boost social contacts with no fears of unattractive missing teeth look.
Younger looking face
No tooth replacement means sunken cheeks and fallen facial muscles. But this will not happen once prosthetics like partial dentures are in your mouth.
Improved chewing and speaking
Having no teeth will definitely impact the way you eat and speak. So, partial dentures will address the chewing and speaking problems dramatically.
Cons of wearing dentures
At first, partial dentures may cause some irritation and sore spots. Depending on the removable or fixed designs, the difficulties may be more or less. You need to get used to the new objects in your mouth and accept your oral appliance.
If pain, irritation or discomfort seem to be continuing even after weeks or months, visit your dentist for a careful examination of your mouth and the dentures fitting issues.
Require careful cleaning
Dentures of any type require meticulous daily cleaning to prevent bacterial growth, fungal infections, and damage to other remaining teeth. If you are wearing fixed partial dentures, you need to get rid of food particles through regular flossing and brushing just like your natural teeth.
You may be wearing removable partial dentures, which makes cleaning easier. Rinse the dentures daily, immerse them in denture cleanser solution, and brush them with a nonabrasive toothbrush.
Read how to clean dentures for detailed information on denture hygiene guidelines.
Breakage and repair
Your partial dentures can break if put into a risky situation. This means more budget and time for remaking all over again. Pay more attention to your oral device to prevent breaking and having to pay for repair costs. Playing sports, doing physical work, having bruxism or grinding teeth habits are all some risk factors that you should either wear mouthguards or take the dentures out (if removable).
Partial dentures cost and insurance coverage
You can expect a price range from $400 to $2,500 for removable partial dentures. The dental flipper can be much lower in price usually less than $ 500. Flexible removable partial dentures may cost between $800 to $2,000. Cast metal partial dentures can cost $1,200 to around $1,700 for each lower or upper partial denture.
On the other hand, fixed partial dentures or bridges can be higher in price. The cost of bridges can be $1,000 to 5,000 and more depending on the bridge type and the high number of lost teeth.
Factors that can change the price of partials are:
- The number of missing teeth
- Whether you want the denture for the upper or lower jaw
- The number of implants
- The material used
- Choose a professional dentist or the location of the office
- Insurance coverage
To reduce your partial denture cost, you can look at your insurance policy terms and find out whether dental services include dentures or not. In the best coverage plan, 50 percent of the price is covered by your insurance, which helps you out in managing the costs.
If insurance doesn’t apply for dental services related to denture and other prosthetic teeth appliances, you can ask your dentist for flexible payment methods or maybe dentists offer discounts.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Dentures?
Yes, dental insurance does cover dentures. Most full dental insurance policies include some restorative coverage, usually meaning that up to 50% of the cost of dentures is covered. Regular deductibles and co-pays still apply, so the actual cost to the patient is always a substantial amount.
The final say
You may experience tooth loss due to cavities, aging, trauma, diseases, or other reasons. Partial dentures have been perfected and worked on by dentists or prosthodontists over many years. Partial dentures, removable or fixed, provide both a cosmetic and functional solution for your lost teeth.
You should never ignore the beauty and attractive appearance that come with partial dentures. Some partials are affordable and others may cost more. In any way, your dentist will offer the most suitable options of partial dentures, which improves your smile and give an ideal look.