Definition & Overview
Partial dentures are dental appliances that are used to replace lost or damaged teeth. They usually consist of a bridge made of gum-coloured plastic with attached replacement teeth. As opposed to a complete denture that replaces all the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw, partial dentures are designed to replace only a specific number of teeth because one or more natural teeth in the affected jaw can still be saved. Thus, a partial denture plays two crucial roles; first, to replace missing teeth, and second, to keep the remaining natural teeth from changing positions. The entire appliance is then placed over the gums and is usually held in place by a metal framework attached to it.
Who Should Undergo & Expected Results
Partial dentures are recommended for those who have lost more than one adjacent teeth in either the upper or lower jaw. This dental appliance fills the gaps in the jaw without requiring individual replacement for each of the lost teeth. Despite the availability of other treatment options, such as dental implants, dentures remain very popular, especially among patients who:
- Are looking for a simpler, less invasive treatment
- Are looking to save money
- Need to replace multiple missing teeth on one jaw
- Need to maintain the positioning of remaining teeth
- Need to maintain the shape of their facial structure
- Need a solution that will not place undue pressure on the jaw
- Don’t have enough bone to support a dental implant
Once the partial dentures are placed, patients no longer have to be embarrassed by their missing teeth. On top of this, they can expect their facial structure to be maintained despite the loss of their natural teeth. This is because dentures are helpful in preventing the hollow appearance of the cheeks that often result from teeth loss. And since dentures are made to resemble natural teeth, they restore patients’ confidence to smile and talk freely. In most cases, dentures also bring a slight improvement in a person’s smile because it tends to fill out the face.
Some adjustments are necessary, though, especially when it comes to eating. It may take a few weeks of practice before a patient can eat comfortably. It is therefore best to start with softer foods or foods that are cut into small pieces during the adjustment period.
How Does the Procedure Work?
There are two types of partial dentures: fixed and removable. A fixed denture is sometimes called a dental implant bridge to distinguish it from removable ones. It is permanently attached to the jaw and stays fixed in place, as the name implies. Meanwhile, a removable denture can be removed for cleaning and is simply held in place by a series of metal wires.
To get partial dentures, a patient will undergo a series of steps that will span two to three visits. During the first visit, the dentist will make a series of impressions of the affected jaw and take measurements that will be used to make the dentures. Once the impressions and measurements are available, models and wax forms of the dentures will be created; these will have the exact shape of the intended dentures and are used so that the patient can try it on before the actual dentures are made. Patients are asked to fit it several times to fully assess the color, shape, and most importantly, the fit of the dentures. Adjustments may have to be made to ensure the comfort of the dentures.
Once the trial period is over, the final partial dentures will be cast. Once placed, the dentist will make further adjustments to ensure fit and comfort. The new dentures will feel a little different at first, and may also feel a bit loose for a few weeks until the cheek muscles and tongue adjust to having them in the mouth and learn how to keep them in place. Over the first few weeks, the patient will also practice inserting and removing them, if removable dentures are used.
Possible Complications and Risks
One common side effect of new partial dentures is an excess of saliva flow, but as the mouth adjusts to the new appliance, saliva flow will go back to normal.
It is also normal for some patients to experience some mild soreness while adjusting to new partial dentures. If the soreness persists or increases in intensity, patients are advised to visit the dentist again for a follow-up check.
Aside from the possibility of soreness or irritation as the mouth, especially the gums, adjust to the dentures, there is very little risk involved in getting dentures. There is also a very low risk of infection since no surgical incisions are made in the process. There is also no risk of compatibility issues, as is usually the problem with dental implants.
- American Dental Association