Removable Partial Dentures

What Are Removable Partial Dentures And Why Are They Used?

Removable partial dentures are generally less expensive but provide less strength and do not look, feel or work as naturally as real teeth, implant crowns or bridges. One or more denture teeth are attached to a metal frame that is held in place by the remaining teeth. The partial denture must be removed from the mouth for cleaning and during sleep.

Did you know:

  • Unreplaced missing back teeth often result in many other teeth including the front teeth becoming crooked, worn and a problem overbite
  • Missing front teeth often result in speech impediments

Frequently Asked Questions

The first step is to design and plan the removable partial denture, similar to a construction blueprint to determine which of your natural teeth are best positioned to stabilize the denture. Some of your teeth will be selected to help support and hold the partial denture in place. These teeth usually require some minor reshaping in order for the partial denture to maintain the health of the tooth, to prevent unwanted tooth movement and to enable the design of a clasp that will be effective in stabilizing the partial denture. Sometimes teeth require fillings or crowns to enable them to adequately support the partial denture. Depending on which teeth are required to stabilize your partial denture and whether these teeth are visible during smiling, talking or laughing, the clasps may be visible. The second step is to complete the needed reshaping, fillings or crowns and to make measurements or molds from which a carefully fitted partial denture metal framework is made. The best colour and size of denture teeth are then selected and attached to the metal framework. The partial denture is usually tried into your mouth so its fit and appearance can be checked as it is being fabricated and before the denture is finished.

If the metal clasps are visible and objectionable, the clasps can be removed but the partial denture would then not likely be as stable. Another alternative is to use crowns with hidden precision attachments (snaps) instead of some clasps, although this will add significant cost.

Without an excellent design and appropriate shaping of some supporting teeth, a removable partial denture will usually have excessive movement, not stay in place and actually cause your natural teeth to move.  Without proper framework design and fit, the partial denture can cause painful pinching of your gum. Removable partial dentures must be carefully made and adjusted so that the framework does not interfere with your bite and the denture teeth bite evenly with your natural teeth.

It is true that at first, removable partial dentures will not feel very natural.  They will certainly feel strange to the tongue, cheek and lips and food definitely tends to collect around them.  Some foods that are particularly hard to chew or sticky are probably best avoided. However, most people get used to a well designed and well fitted partial denture to enjoy the benefits of better appearance, speech, health and reasonable chewing.

Do not expect your general dentist or a denturist to obtain the results routinely obtainable in our prosthodontic specialty office.  General dentists try to stay on top of all the general routine treatments patients need but can’t be expected to be capable of providing specialized treatment.  A denturist is not a doctor or specialist and only completes about a 16 month trade course that allows them to provide a cook book approach to making ‘one style suits all’ dentures.  There are some capable dental specialists in Mexico and elsewhere but always beware of ‘discount dentistry’. An attempt to obtain specialty treatment from those without the appropriate training and experience is likely to create problems and regret.

If your natural teeth are properly maintained, the removable partial denture can last many years but if some teeth deteriorate, move or are lost, this can result in problems or the inability to use your partial denture.  Your remaining natural teeth must of course be thoroughly cleaned once or twice a day, ideally after breakfast and before bed using a soft tooth brush with fluoride tooth paste. Dental floss or other aides need to be used to clean between the teeth.

Because food, plaque, bacteria and mineral deposits stick to dentures it is critical to thoroughly scrub, clean and disinfect your denture every day and desirable to rinse your mouth and denture after each meal.   Clean your denture over a sink full of water or a towel.  If the denture is dropped, it will fall into the water or onto the towel and not chip or break.  Scrub the outside and inside surfaces of the denture using a denture brush. Toothpaste is not good to clean dentures as it is abrasive and will eventually wear the denture.  Use denture cream or regular liquid hand or dishwashing soap.

Your dentures must be disinfected every day to kill bacteria and yeast that are associated with decay, gum disease, mouth infections and odor.  Disinfection, stain and calculus removal is best accomplished by soaking the dentures in ‘Protech’ solution for 15-30 minutes daily, which can be obtained through our office.  Alternatively, either ‘Efferdent’ or ‘Polident’ can be used, which are available from most drug or large food stores but are not as effective at stain and calculus removal. In either case, rinse the denture thoroughly afterward, before letting them soak in water overnight.

It is important to realize that partial dentures do not last forever.  Changes are slowly taking place in the bone and gums under the partial dentures.  Experience shows that most partial dentures need to be refitted to the soft tissues of the mouth, approximately every one to three years, to help maintain stability and a good fit.  When changes within the mouth are more significant such as tooth movements or tooth loss or if the partial denture framework no longer adequately fits the teeth, the dentures will require replacement.  It is important to clean your teeth and partial denture thoroughly every day and have all of your teeth and removable partial denture regularly examined and cleaned.

All Tooth Replacements

All tooth replacement treatments, in our office, should achieve the following:

  • Restore a smile and chewing ability by eliminating gaps caused by missing teeth
  • Prevent teeth in the area of a missing tooth from tipping over or becoming crooked
  • Help maintain the natural shape of your face by providing support for your lips and cheeks

Case Studies

Removable Partial Dentures

Case Study Title

Mrs. B.O. presented to our office at age 55, concerned that her existing partial lower denture was uncomfortable and her upper complete denture caused her to slur her speech. She wanted to keep her remaining lower teeth. A removable partial denture was the only treatment alternative in the lower jaw due to the lack of adequate bone support for dental implants. However, we determined that it would be possible to realign a tooth on the lower left followed by a fixed bridge to better stabilize the teeth and bite in this area. This then created an improved situation for a better designed new partial lower denture which was made with a new complete upper denture. Not only is her lower denture more comfortable than before with better speech, the aesthetic alignment of her teeth is much improved.

Case Study Title

Mrs. T.K. had already left her previous dentist disappointed that her teeth were deteriorating and felt that she had not received proper dental treatment or advice. She had consulted two other dentists, one of which recommended a thorough examination in our office. She came to us at the age of 53. We recommended periodontal (gum and bone disease) treatment be provided in a periodontal specialist’s office. Numerous other treatments were provided by our office including new crowns on the lower front teeth that fit properly and had a much improved bite and appearance. New crowns were also required on many of the upper teeth. Mrs. T.K. decided to proceed with an attachment retained removable partial denture to avoid the display of a metal clasp and this was accommodated in conjunction with the new crowns. Mrs. T.K. now has her confidence restored in the dental profession and can look forward to enjoying her teeth for years.

Case Study Title

Mr. S.N. was 66 years old when he was referred to our office by his general dentist because of his complaint that his dentures didn’t fit properly and the lower partial denture was loose. His lower partial denture was so troublesome that he was not even wearing it. We made a new complete upper denture and a differently designed lower partial denture to improve the evenness of his bite and the stability of his dentures. The smile was also significantly modified with Mr. S.N.’s input to achieve a much more youthful appearance.

Case Study Title

Ms. H.R. was referred to our office when she was 44 years old. She felt her old partial upper denture, which was only one year old, was loose, her tongue felt irritated by the position of the denture teeth, she had difficulty speaking with the denture and the appearance of the gum on the partial denture looked unnatural to her. New removable partial upper and lower dentures were made for her that were more stable, had a much better appearance and allowed her to speak much more naturally without irritation.