There are many types of removable partial dentures, which makes it possible to easily replace one or multiple missing teeth.
If you're missing any of your teeth, you may find it challenging to eat or speak. Your smile, too, is often no longer the same. Luckily, a dentist or a tooth replacement dental specialist‚ known as a prosthodontist‚ can design a custom appliance to replace those missing teeth and restore your smile and function. However, since there are many types of removable partial dentures available, you may want to know all your options before deciding on the right appliance for you.
What Is a Removable Partial Denture?
Before explaining the different types of removable partial dentures available today, it's important to understand the basics of what a removable partial denture is. To make a simple analogy, it's somewhat like a retainer. After you have braces, your dentist will usually give you a retainer, often made of plastic material with metal clasps, to keep your teeth in their new position. A removable partial denture looks similar, with a component that rests on the soft tissue of your mouth and clasps that hold onto your teeth. The key difference, though, is that there are one or more artificial teeth attached to fill in the gaps in your smile.
Types of Removable Partial Dentures
The two common types of removable partial dentures are cast metal partial dentures and acrylic flippers. Flexible dentures are an alternative option, as well. Here's what to know about each of these devices.
Cast Metal Partial DenturesCast metal partial dentures have a metal base, often consisting of cobalt-chromium alloy, according to a case report in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research (JCDR). The metal base remains secure in your mouth by connecting to your natural teeth. Alternatively, the framework may incorporate less noticeable precision attachments that slide into preparations, as the American Dental Association (ADA) explains. Depending on the type of attachment, the metal may be visible, so if aesthetics are important to you, discuss your options with your dentist. Generally, dentures with precision attachments cost more than those with metal clasps, as the ADA explains.
Acrylic FlippersBy contrast, acrylic flippers are made of a pink-colored material that rests on the soft tissue in your mouth. As the JCDR report notes, these often serve as temporary space maintainers until a more permanent denture is created. A report by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health explains that these removable acrylic flippers are ideal for patients with progressive periodontal conditions, who may lose more teeth over time and require modifiable partial dentures.
Flexible DentureAnother aesthetic and lightweight option is flexible dentures, which are made of a material called Valplast. This is a soft nylon compound that is injection molded to fit the patient's mouth. Although existing teeth don't need to be adjusted to fit this denture, repair is often difficult and staining occurs readily, according to the JCDR report.
Other options for replacing a missing tooth do exist, including fixed bridges and dental implants, as the American Academy of Implant Dentistry explains. However, both are more invasive procedures than partial denture fabrication and are typically more expensive.
How to Care for a Removable Partial Denture
To maintain optimal oral health, you need to take good care of your removable partial denture. As the JCDR report explains, brushing a Valplast partial may actually scratch the material. Instead, this type of appliance should be removed and handled cautiously for gentle cleaning. As for conventional partial dentures, these should be rinsed and soaked overnight in a denture solution or water, notes the Mayo Clinic. Follow your dentist's instructions on properly caring for your device, and be sure to visit your dentist for regular checkups at least twice a year.
With so many options for replacing missing teeth, the most important step you can take is talking to your dentist about what solution is best suited for you.