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.