Partial Dentures Information
Partial dentures are dentures that clip on to a few remaining teeth. As opposed to full dentures, which rely on the remaining gum, proper extensions and denture glues to stay in place, partials can clip on to teeth.
What Are Temporary Partials?
Temporary partials are made with all plastic, and they have some bent wires (which look like paper clips) that loosely grip onto a few teeth. They are not tight; rather, they rely on adhesive cream or powder to help them stay in place. They may be used as an immediate replacement when teeth are removed and need to be placed the same day. However, patients shouldn’t use temporary partials for longer than six to nine months, since they can break and accelerate bone loss.
Not all partials have these paper clip wires; partial dentures can also have flexible plastic clasps, or flexible partials. Brands include Valplast, Cusil or Flexite. These types of partials can be bent; they are very flexible in nature, so are hard to break.
Partial dentures without clasps are called “flippers,” as they can be flipped into and out of the mouth easily. They are used for aesthetic reasons and shouldn’t be used for chewing, since the few teeth on the acrylic saddle can break very easily. These can be a quick and cost effective way to replace a missing tooth while alternative options are still considered.
Here are some of the most common questions about partial dentures.
What is the downside to flexible partials?
Flexible partials can be difficult to repair because this flexible acrylic won’t stick to traditional plastic. That means that if a denture tooth pops off, a new partial may need to be made. Another downside to these partials is that they sit only on the gum tissue, so they do not rest on the remaining teeth. That means they can put more pressure on the gum during chewing and may lead to accelerated bone loss under the flexible partial as compared to a traditional partial. The good thing about these partials is that they can have clear or tooth-colored clasps, so you don’t have to settle for the displeasing appearance of the metal clasps.
What are the types of partials?
One type is the all-acrylic partial, but the main type is the metal-based partial denture with cast clasps. These have cast rests which sit on top of teeth to take the load off the gum tissue and cast clasps to precisely allow the partial to grip the teeth and remain in place with minimal movement.
Do all partial dentures fit the same way and feel the same?
No, partials are classified according to how many teeth they replace and where those teeth were. If someone is missing all but two teeth, the partial may move up and down with these teeth as a fulcrum-like seesaw.
A partial like this will fit much differently (and less comfortably) than a partial that is fully tooth supported. A partial with clasps that are evenly spread out around the arch, which can rest on teeth in all four corners of the mouth, won’t rock and will resist displacement.
What is generally regarded as the least comfortable partial?
The least comfortable partial happens when someone has teeth on one side of their arch and no teeth on the other side. Every time food is chewed, this partial will lift up on the side where there are no clasps and food will get under the partial, which is very uncomfortable for the patient.
How long do partials last?
Partial dentures last three to five years, and then the acrylic teeth will wear out and need to be replaced. The denture base will also get looser and more sores will appear —signs that a new partial is needed.
What else should I know in order to have success with partials?
Ask your dentist how you can place implants so that you have more devices for the partial to clip onto and prevent rocking, sores and food impaction. Also, if you can afford to replace all the missing teeth with implants, the partial can be placed in a drawer forever. The implants will prevent loosening of the teeth that the partial was clasping onto (a main reason that partial dentures fail).
Partial denture wear for too long leads to bone loss, so you want to replace partials as soon as it is financially and physically a viable option. A removable partial denture survival is 60 percent at four years, which means that four out of 10 are broken after that amount of time.
The teeth that partials clasp onto need repairs at a rate of 80 percent at 10 years. The bending and forces on these teeth cause fillings to pop out and teeth to chip or crack, leading to the need for more repairs. Teeth that partials clip onto also have accelerated bone loss because the clasps move these teeth during chewing. Therefore they lose bone around these areas. Interestingly, half of people interviewed report that they chew better without their partials in their mouths!
Only 60 percent of people with a lower free-end saddle partial (missing all teeth on one side) are still wearing them after four years. Some studies show that 44 percent of teeth that partials clip onto are lost within 10 years when wearing removable partials.
So, while partials are a necessary evil to prevent teeth from moving, shifting and super-erupting into spaces, whenever possible, they should be replaced with fixed dentistry, according to the literature and patient reports.
Overall, wearing a partial for too long and not having it refitted can lead to bone loss, which can make it very difficult to add bone later and get dental implants. It’s important to have discussions about the quality and quantity of your bone before and during your stint wearing partial dentures.