What Are Partial Dentures and How Do They Work? Explained!

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According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, approximately 3 million Australians aged 15 and over have lost all their natural teeth, with the majority of these individuals relying on dentures for their oral health needs. However, traditional dentures are not always the most effective option, particularly for those who have only lost some of their teeth. In these cases, partial dentures can provide a more tailored approach to restoring a person’s smile and oral functionality. This article will delve into the world of partial dentures, explaining what they are, how they work, and how they can potentially transform dental health outcomes for millions of Australians.

Summary of The Content

  • Partial dentures are dental appliances that replace missing teeth, fitting precisely into the mouth and preventing remaining natural teeth from shifting.

  • Cast metal dentures are durable and long-lasting, but their metal clasps may be visible, and the rigid frame allows for limited adjustment.

  • Flexible dentures adapt to the shape of the mouth for a comfortable fit and have less noticeable clasps, but they may not last as long as metal dentures and require meticulous cleaning.

  • Acrylic dentures are less expensive and often used temporarily while waiting for a more permanent denture, but they can be bulkier, less comfortable, and less durable.

  • The process of getting partial dentures involves an initial consultation, taking impressions and measurements, fitting and adjustment, and follow-up and maintenance.

  • Partial dentures improve speech and chewing, maintain facial structure, prevent natural teeth from shifting, boost self-esteem, and offer versatility, ease of adaptation, and affordability.

  • Proper care for partial dentures includes daily cleaning, handling with care, rinsing after eating, soaking overnight, rinsing before wearing, caring for the mouth, and regular dental check-ups.

  • The cost of partial dentures varies depending on the type, number of teeth to be replaced, and complexity of the case, with the average cost ranging from $900 to $2,000.

Understanding What Partial Dentures Are

Partial dentures are a type of dental prosthetic designed to replace one or more missing teeth in the same arch. They are typically made from a combination of metal and acrylic, which provides both strength for chewing and an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

  • For individuals who have lost one or two teeth due to injury or decay, partial dentures can fill in the gaps, helping to maintain the alignment of the remaining teeth and prevent shifting.

  • Those who have undergone a tooth extraction procedure and are waiting for a dental implant or bridge may also benefit from a temporary partial denture. This can help maintain the aesthetics and functionality of their smile during the healing process.

  • For older adults who have lost multiple teeth but still have healthy remaining teeth, partial dentures can be an affordable and less invasive alternative to full dentures or extensive bridgework.

  • Individuals who have lost teeth on one side of the mouth may find that a partial denture helps to balance their bite and reduce wear on the remaining teeth.

The Different Types of Partial Dentures

Cast Metal Partial Dentures

These are robust dentures crafted from a high-quality metal alloy framework that interlocks securely with the natural teeth.

Pros:

  • They are long-lasting and less likely to break compared to other types, making them a good investment in health.
  • They offer a great fit and are comfortable to wear due to their thin metal framework.
  • The cobalt chrome metal alloy used is lightweight and has a direct impact on the comfort of the patient.

Cons:

  • They can be more expensive than other types of partial dentures.
  • The metal clasps may be visible when speaking or smiling, which some patients may find less aesthetically pleasing.

Flexible Partial Dentures

These are modern dentures made from a flexible resin material that fits snugly within the mouth, providing a more natural appearance.

Pros:

  • They are comfortable and flexible, providing a natural fit.
  • They have a more aesthetic appearance with coloured resin retainers that blend with the gums and no visible metal clasps.
  • They can handle the impact of biting and chewing foods without causing discomfort.

Cons:

  • They may not last as long as metal dentures, potentially leading to future replacement.
  • They can be more prone to staining from food particles and may require more frequent replacement.

Acrylic Partial Dentures

These are traditional dentures made from an impact-resistant acrylic base, often including metal clasps for additional support.

Pros:

  • They are often the most affordable type of partial dentures, making them a popular choice for patients on a budget.
  • They can be easily adjusted and relined for a better fit by oral health professionals at denture clinics.

Cons:

  • They can be less comfortable due to their bulkier design, which may impact the amount of food a person can comfortably eat.
  • The acrylic material may not be as durable as metal or flexible resins, leading to potential breakage.

The Process of Getting Partial Dentures

  1. Initial Consultation
    The process begins with an initial consultation at our dental clinic. During this visit, the dental professional will examine your mouth, assess the health of your remaining natural teeth, and discuss your needs and preferences. This is the time to ask questions and express any concerns you might have. The dental professional will then explain the different options available to you, whether that be cast metal dentures, flexible dentures, or acrylic dentures.

  2. Impressions and Measurements
    If partial dentures are deemed the most promising option, the next step involves taking precise measurements and impressions of your mouth. These are crucial for dentures to fit comfortably and function effectively. The impressions are sent to a dental laboratory, where the dentures are custom-made to fit your mouth during the denture-making process.

  3. Fitting and Adjustment
    Once the dentures are ready, you’ll return to the clinic for the fitting. The dental professional will place the dentures in your mouth and check for proper fit and comfort. It’s normal for the dentures to feel a bit strange at first, but they should not cause any discomfort. The dental professional will make the necessary adjustments to secure a good fit.

  4. Follow-up and Maintenance
    After the fitting, you’ll have a period of adjustment as you get used to eating and speaking with your new dentures. You might need to return to the clinic for further adjustments. Regular check-ups are also important to monitor the health of your remaining natural teeth and gums, and to help the dentures remain fitting well.

The Benefits of Partial Dentures

Partial dentures offer a range of benefits that can significantly improve the quality of life for those who have lost some of their natural teeth. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Improved Speech and Chewing:
    Missing teeth can make it difficult to pronounce certain words and chew food properly. Partial dentures can help address these issues by replacing the missing teeth and restoring normal function.

  • Maintaining Facial Structural Integrity:
    Teeth play a crucial role in supporting the facial structure. When teeth are missing, it can lead to the sagging of facial muscles, making a person look older. Partial dentures provide the necessary support to maintain the natural shape of the face.

  • Preventing Natural Teeth from Shifting:
    When there are gaps in the mouth due to missing teeth, the remaining teeth can shift into these spaces over time. This can lead to a range of problems, including changes in bite and jaw alignment. Partial dentures fill these gaps and prevent the remaining teeth from shifting.

  • Boosting Self-Esteem:
    Missing teeth can impact a person’s self-confidence. By filling in the gaps, partial dentures can help restore a person’s smile and boost their self-esteem.

  • Versatility:
    Partial dentures are versatile and can be designed to fit any number of missing teeth and any location in the mouth.

  • Ease of Adaptation:
    Compared to other types of dentures, many patients find it easier to adapt to partial dentures, especially those made from flexible materials.

  • Affordability:
    Compared to other single-tooth replacement options, such as dental implants, partial dentures are often more affordable, making them accessible to a wider range of patients.

The Potential Challenges with Partial Dentures

While partial dentures offer numerous benefits, it’s important to be aware of potential challenges that may come with them. Here are some common issues and how they can be managed:

  • Initial Discomfort:
    When you first start wearing partial dentures, you might experience some discomfort or feel that they are bulky or loose. This is normal and usually improves as your mouth gets used to the dentures. If the discomfort persists, it’s important to visit your dental clinic for denture adjustments.

  • Difficulty Eating and Speaking:
    Initially, you might find it difficult to eat certain foods or pronounce certain words. Practising at home can help. Start with softer foods and gradually introduce more challenging foods as you get comfortable. Similarly, reading aloud can help improve your speech with dentures.

  • Irritation and Sore Spots:
    Partial dentures can sometimes cause irritation or sores in your mouth, especially if they’re not fitting properly. Regular check-ups at the dental clinic can help identify and address these issues early.

  • Maintenance and Cleaning:
    Like natural teeth, dentures require regular cleaning to prevent the build-up of plaque and bacteria. It’s important to clean your dentures daily using a liquid soap and a soft brush. Remember to remove them at night to give your gums a rest.

  • Regular Adjustments:
    Over time, changes in your mouth and gums may affect the fit of your dentures. Regular denture checks during visits to the dental clinic for adjustments will help your dentures continue to fit well and function effectively.

Caring for Your Partial Dentures

  • Clean Daily
    Just like natural teeth, partial dentures should be cleaned daily to remove food particles and plaque. Use a soft-bristled brush designed for dentures.

  • Avoid Harsh Cleaners
    Do not use abrasive cleaning products, which can damage dentures. Opt for a denture cleaner recommended by your dental health professional.

  • Handle with Care
    Dentures are delicate and may break if dropped. When handling your dentures, stand over a folded towel or a sink filled with water.

  • Soak Overnight
    Most types of dentures need to stay moist to keep their shape. Remove them at night to allow your gums to rest. Then, place the dentures in water or a mild denture-soaking solution overnight.

  • Rinse After Eating
    After each meal, remove your dentures and rinse them under running water to dislodge any food particles.

  • Schedule Regular Check-ups
    Visit your dental health professional regularly to keep your dentures in good condition and provide a proper fit.

  • Avoid Hot Water
    Never use hot water to clean dentures, as it can warp them.

  • Brush Your Mouth
    Even with dentures, it’s important to brush your gums, tongue, and roof of your mouth every morning with a soft-bristled brush before you insert your dentures. This stimulates circulation in your tissues and helps remove plaque.

The Cost of Partial Dentures

The cost of partial dentures can vary widely, depending on a number of factors. Partial Dentures normally cost $900 to $2,000, although the exact cost depends on the type of denture (cast metal, flexible, or acrylic), the number of teeth that need to be replaced, and the complexity of the case.

It’s important to remember that these figures are just a general guide. The partial denture costs can also be influenced by where you live, the materials used, and the individual dental clinic’s pricing structure. For a more accurate estimate, we highly recommend scheduling a consultation with trusted denture clinics, like our team at Joondanna Family Dental. Our dental professionals will be able to provide a detailed breakdown of the costs based on your specific needs and circumstances.

Partial Dentures vs. Other Dental Solutions

When addressing tooth loss, there are a few options available, each with its own advantages and considerations. Partial dentures, dental bridges, and dental implants are the most common choices.

  • Partial dentures, as we’ve discussed, are the most ideal choice for patients who are looking for a versatile option with the lowest cost. They can replace multiple missing teeth, even if those teeth are not all in a row. The dentures are custom-made to fit your mouth and can be made from different materials such as acrylic, cast metal, or flexible resin. They are held in place with metal clasps or other retention options and can be removed for cleaning and sleeping.

  • Dental bridges, on the other hand, are a fixed option. They consist of one or more false teeth, known as Pontics, which are held in place by dental crowns cemented onto the natural teeth on either side of the gap. Bridges can be a good choice if you have one or two missing teeth and healthy teeth on either side to support the bridge. However, they require the adjacent teeth to be filed down to fit the crowns, which can impact the health of those teeth in the long term.

  • Dental implants are considered the gold standard in tooth replacement. They involve surgically inserting a titanium post into the jawbone, which then serves as an anchor for a replacement tooth. Although they may cost more than dentures and bridges, implants are the most natural-feeling and natural-looking tooth-coloured option, and they also help to preserve the jawbone.

Final Thoughts

Partial dentures stand as a versatile and cost-effective option for those who have lost one or more teeth. They strike a balance between functionality and aesthetics, enabling individuals to eat, speak, and smile with renewed confidence. With a variety of materials available, including acrylic, cast metal, and flexible resin, partial dentures can be tailored to meet individual needs and preferences.

However, it’s crucial to remember that everyone’s situation is unique. The most effective way to ascertain if partial dentures are the right option for you is through a comprehensive consultation with a dental professional. They can assess your oral health, discuss your goals and concerns, and recommend the most suitable tooth replacement option for you.

At Joondanna Family Dental, we’re dedicated to helping our patients achieve optimal oral health and a radiant smile. We warmly invite you to schedule a consultation with us. Our team will take the time to understand your needs and explain all your options, including partial dentures. Don’t let missing teeth hold you back. Reach out to Joondanna Family Dental today and take the first step towards a healthier, happier smile.

Dr. Lucy Ge

Author

Dr. Lucy Ge

Dr. Lucy Ge’s vision for Joondanna Family Dental is to be the local dentist that the community can rely on.

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