Is there a gap in your smile that drives you crazy? You aren't alone. Almost half of all adults in the U.S. have had at least one tooth extracted, and 43.1% of adults 65 years old and older have lost six or more teeth, says an article published in The Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry. Removable partial dentures might be a cost-effective option to quickly restore your smile (without oral surgery) but make sure to discuss this with your dentist or prosthodontist to find the best option for you.
What is a partial denture?
Partial dentures are a type of dental appliance, different from dental bridges, with false teeth supported by a metal framework. The metal framework attaches to your natural teeth on either side, similar to a retainer. You can easily remove the appliance, allowing you to take it out at night and clean it thoroughly, says the Canadian Dental Association.
Best ways to clean partial dentures
You'll need to brush your partial dentures every day to remove plaque and help prevent stains on the false teeth. It's best to use a brush that is designed for cleaning dentures. A denture brush has bristles that are specifically arranged to fit the shape of dentures, but a regular, soft-bristled toothbrush will also work. Just don't use a brush with hard bristles, which can damage the denture.
You can use hand soap or mild dish soap to clean your dentures. Other household cleaners and many toothpastes are too abrasive and can damage your dentures.
Before cleaning your partial denture, hold it over a towel or a sink full of water, just in case you accidentally drop it. Rinse the denture thoroughly to clean off loose food particles. Moisten the brush, and apply the denture cleaner. Brush the denture surfaces gently to avoid damaging the plastic or bending the metal.
Before putting your partial denture back in, brush your surrounding teeth, gums, tongue and palate with a soft-bristled brush. This stimulates circulation in your tissues and helps remove plaque.
How to look after partial dentures
Caring for your partial denture requires more than cleaning. A denture could lose its proper shape if it is not kept moist. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dentures should be placed in warm water or soaking solution overnight. This also helps keep them extra clean.
Partial dentures are quite fragile. If they get damaged, don't try to adjust or repair them yourself. This could change the fit of your denture, causing irritation and sores. Using a do-it-yourself kit or over-the-counter glue can damage the appliance beyond repair.
If your denture no longer fits properly — or if it breaks, cracks, or if one of the teeth becomes loose — visit your dentist immediately. Often, dentists can make the necessary adjustments. Complicated repairs might require the denture to be sent to a special laboratory.
Complications with partial dentures
People with allergies to nickel or other metals might have reactions to the metal framework that holds partial dentures in place. An article published in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry explains that nickel allergies can cause a burning sensation in the mouth. Other symptoms include swollen gums and numbness.
See your dentist if you're concerned about metal allergies. Metal-free partial dentures, which are made of thermoplastic resin, might be a more suitable option. These dentures are secured with resin clasps rather than a metal framework.
Denture slippage is a common denture problem. New dentures take time to get used to. At first, you might notice your partial denture slipping out of place when you talk or eat. If the dentures continue to slip, there might be a fit issue that needs to be adjusted by your dentist. For example, the metal framework or resin clasps might not fit snugly enough to hold the dentures in place.
Denture slippage can also happen to people who have had their dentures for a while. Over time, the remaining teeth can shift or the gum tissue can recede. Dentures that once fit perfectly can start to feel loose and uncomfortable. If this happens, see your dentist. The dentures can be adjusted or re-made if necessary. In some cases, a denture adhesive could help.
Taking care of partial dentures requires just a little time and effort to keep them in excellent shape. When wearing your partial denture, care for your teeth — and entire mouth — as you normally would by avoiding sugary and acidic foods, drinking lots of water, and, of course, smiling as much as possible!