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What is a Partial Denture?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A partial denture is a type of dental prosthetic which is designed to replace one or more missing teeth. Some partial dentures are designed to be installed and worn permanently, while others are removable. Removable partial dentures, also known as RPDs, are designed to be taken out and cared for by the patient. Fitting dentures takes time, and numerous sessions at a dentist's office to check for fit and make adjustments, as the denture must fit perfectly for patient comfort.

Several different styles of dentures are available. Temporary partials, known as flippers, are made from acrylic with wire loops to hold the denture in place. They tend not to look as realistic as other types of dentures, but they can be useful when a denture is needed in a hurry, or when a patient is being fitted with an immediate denture. Other types are made from cast metal and other materials which are designed to attach to various clips, such as precision attachments, which are designed to be hidden so the denture looks more natural.

Fixed partials, also known as bridges or bridgework, are fixed in place rather than being designed for removal. Fitting a fixed partial denture correctly is important, because a dentist does not want to accidentally cause damage to the jaw, gums, or remaining teeth with a poorly fitted bridge. For this reason, patients may wear a temporary denture while their bridges are designed and fitted, allowing some time so the shape of the mouth will settle.

Over a patient's lifetime, numerous follow-up appointments will be needed to check the fit of the denture. The shape of the mouth changes over time, which can cause a partial denture to shift in position or to become uncomfortable. These appointments give a dentist a chance to adjust the denture or to recommend placements for a damaged denture. They can also include routine dental care such as x-rays and teeth cleaning to keep the mouth in good shape.

Care directions for a partial denture vary, depending on the denture. Some dentures are designed to be brushed in the mouth with a soft toothbrush or dental toothbrush, while others are removed for cleaning in a denture cleaning solution. Many removable partials are designed to be worn throughout the patient's day so that he or she does not experience embarrassment as a result of missing teeth, and some can be worn continuously for extended periods.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By cardsfan27 — On Sep 17, 2011

@Izzy78 - About not brushing dentures, the problem I don't think would be so much about what would happen to the dentures themselves. The problem would be what was happening in the rest of the mouth. If you stopped brushing them, I'm sure there would be plaque buildup, and that would start leading to gum disease, which wouldn't be good.

Besides that, there is a lot of evidence that letting plaque accumulate in your mouth leads to artery blockage later on. Just flossing your teeth regularly reduces your risk for heart disease. It is definitely not a good idea to slack off on oral care even if the teeth aren't real.

Related to the material the dentures are made of, I'm not sure. I would be interested if someone knew that answer. I was also curious about partial denture repair and whether there were any easy fixes if something did happen to the dentures.

By Izzy78 — On Sep 17, 2011

I always wondered what bridgework meant. I've heard it used a lot.

What kind of material are fixed partial dentures made of? They would be made of something pretty strong that couldn't wear down over time. I was also wondering, too, what would happen if someone with dentures decided not to brush them on a regular basis. I would guess they would start to form the same plaque covering that normal teeth would get, but would that affect the dentures? How easy is it to clean them overall?

By TreeMan — On Sep 16, 2011

@matthewc23 - I had to get a set of partial dentures last year. I'm not sure how it would work if you were only missing a few teeth that were spaced out. I think for missing teeth in the front, there is some sort of procedure where you can get a "snap in" tooth or else a tooth that is attached to something that looks like a retainer.

In my case, I had had a few teeth pulled here and there throughout my life, and I had another bothering me, so I finally decided to get all of my back teeth pulled and replaced. The front teeth were all fine, so I decided to keep them.

The whole process can get pretty pricey. It was in the thousands to get the rest of the teeth pulled and have dentures fitted and created. I have the removable type, and they are definitely high quality. I don't have any experience with the temporary kind, so I can't help you there.

By matthewc23 — On Sep 15, 2011

Does a partial denture work for just one or two missing teeth, or does it have to be a whole section?

What is the quality of partial dentures? If you get the temporary type, how long will they last? Since they use wire as the frame, I'm guessing they can be very delicate or easily bent. What is the typical partial denture cost for the initial appointments and final set of dentures? Does anyone here have them that could give me some information?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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