The ADA reports that 120 million US citizens are missing at least one tooth. Not replacing those can lead to poor nutrition, bone loss, and changes in the shape of the face. The most popular solution when some teeth remain is a partial denture.

Together with our dental team we have prepared a fact sheet on partial dentures. Read to find out what options you have.

Partial denture definition

A partial denture is a removable plate with one or more false teeth attached. It is fitted when some teeth are lost. The false dentition fills in the gaps.

They often have clasps that hook onto remaining teeth. This way the prosthesis stays in place when you are going about your day. Precision attachments might be added for extra support and sturdiness.

Depending on what teeth you are missing, partial dentures can be made for just the back or front teeth. A combination is also possible.

Partial denture types

There are different materials to choose from. They heavily determine the partial dentures cost. Your dentist is the best person to ask which is right for you. The most important factors that impact this decision are the amount of the remaining teeth and your available budget.

Acrylic partial denture

Different tyoes of partials

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

The most popular material for partial dentures is resin plastic. This material can be dyed so that the color matches your gums. Acrylic dentures belong to the cheaper types. You can even have teeth added if you lose more. More acrylic is simply bonded to accommodate the addition. Acrylic partial dentures can last 5-8 years.

The downside is that they break easily, so you may have to replace them more often. Plastic dentures may also need adhesives, generating more running costs. They sometimes have metal clasps, but most commonly plastic partials are simply embedded in the resin and can break off.

Acrylic puts a lot of pressure on your gums. This can lead to irritation, soreness, and even lesions. Some patients have trouble with gagging, as in the case of the upper dentures, the acrylic covers your entire palate.

  • Most affordable partial dentures

  • Color can be matched to the existing gums

  • Break more easily

  • Adhesives are sometimes necessary

  • Cover your entire palate

  • Patients often have to endure gagging with this option

  • Can damage neighboring teeth

Flexible partial denture

Flipper tooth from flexible material

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Flexible partial dentures are made from thermoplastic materials. The most popular ones are nylon and valplast. With proper care, patients can wear these for up to 15 years.

This type doesn’t need adhesives or metal clasps, since they cling to the gums by themselves. The structure is less stiff and rigid than acrylic dentures.

The material is clear and gums are visible, providing great aesthetics. Flexible dentures are also very quick to produce and not as expensive as metal cast ones.

  • No need for adhesives or visible clasps

  • Flexible structure

  • Not bulky

  • Clear material for better aesthetics

  • Quick to produce

  • Less expensive than metal partials

  • If they break, they can't be fixed

Cast metal partial denture

Cast metal partial dentures

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Metal partial dentures are more lightweight and durable than plastic ones. It is easier to support them with the use of clasps and adjacent teeth. Your palate does need to be covered. Appreciating fine dining is a lot easier because they stay in better and trap less food.

Cobalt chrome is most commonly used. It provides a great balance between toughness and flexibility. Metal partial dentures are unlikely to fracture even on trauma. They can last up to 10 years.

The base is metal covered in plastic. Metal parts may be visible in your mouth. The downside is that this option is usually quite expensive. What makes up for this is that more teeth may be added along the way.

  • Lightweight

  • Less bulky and more comfortable in the mouth

  • Palate is not covered

  • Won't fracture due to trauma

  • Can last many years but usually used for a few months

  • Base is covered with plastic for better aesthetics

  • More expensive than plastic

  • Metal clasps may be visible in the mouth

Interim partial denture

Interim partial denture

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Interim partial dentures are often made from acrylic. They are designed for the filler period after you get your teeth removed and before you get your permanent denture.

This type provides a quick solution if you don’t want to go without teeth at all. Designed to be temporary, you shouldn’t wear them for longer than a few months.

Fake dentition can be placed in the exact same position your natural tooth was. Interim dentures also provide occlusal support and make eating and speaking easier.

  • Does not need relines or adjustments

  • Can work as a spare after you get your definitive denture

  • Generally not covered by insurance and must be paid for put-of-pocket

  • Temporary solution

If you decide a partial denture is not the right choice for you, you can explore some alternatives. Those include dental implants, denture implants, bridges, or maybe complete dentures.

FAQ

What is the best type of partial dentures?

This depends on the needs of the patient and the state of the remaining teeth. Metal cast dentures are the most expensive but also the most durable. On the other hand, acrylic dentures are the most common.

How soon after extraction can I get a partial denture?

It may take up to 12 weeks to get a partial denture after a tooth is removed. This may be shorter if your mouth heals quickly. The cast, however, must often be done when the situation in your mouth settles.

How long does it take to get partial dentures?

If you don’t need any extractions, getting a partial denture can take 6 weeks up to 3 months. This may be longer if you have conditions such as periodontitis which should be fixed before a dental impression is taken.

References

  1. Facts & Figures - ACP
  2. Denture Adhesives in Prosthodontics: An Overview - NCBI
  3. Flexible Thermoplastic Denture Base Materials for Aesthetical Removable Partial Denture Framework - NCBI
  4. Polyamide as a Denture Base Material: A Literature Review - NCBI
  5. Interim dentures and treatment dentures - PubMed