As the third part of my series on problems with different removable prosthetics (aka dentures), I’m going to focus on the most common type of prosthesis: partial dentures. Partials are great for many people because it can replace a missing tooth and give a person back some of their bite while being lower cost than other options. The three most common problems that I see with partials are broken partials, partials that no longer fit due to gum shrinking, and partials that no longer fit due to tooth loss.
Even though partials are made from strong materials, through enough wear and tear in the mouth or an accidental drop, they can break. The good news is that partials broken this way are fairly routine. However, please do a couple of things. We fix them by putting the piece back together like a jigsaw puzzle and then using a special material that bonds well with the partial to make it fit back together. Do not use super glue to fix the partial. Superglue will not work (I’ve yet to see it hold a partial together for more than one or two days) and may make the partial beyond repair. The second part is to make sure that you have all the pieces of the partial. As I mentioned before, these pieces will fit together like a jigsaw and will need to be put back together. One missing piece no matter how small can make it impossible to put back together.
After a person loses a tooth, it’s common for the bone to shrink or resorb. As a partial is meant to replace a tooth, this means that bone and gums that support the partial are gone and the partial may start to rock. When this happens, the partial can become less comfortable to wear and is at greater risk of fracture due to the rocking. To fix this, often a reline can be placed which fills in the gap between the prosthesis and the gums. Usually, this reline doesn’t take too long and can be done in the dental chair; occasionally though with bigger relines, it needs to be sent to the lab to be done properly.
The final common problem that I see with partial dentures is when a tooth holding the partial is lost and the partial becomes loose and less stable. These teeth that hold in the partial are called abutment teeth. Some people who wear partial dentures say that these abutment teeth always cause problems and will inevitably be lost. While these teeth do experience more stress as they are holding in the partial, I find these teeth are usually lost in the same manner as the other teeth were. In other words, if a person has suffered with a lot of cavities, I would expect the abutment tooth to be lost to cavities. The best way to prevent this problem is to visit the dentist on a regular basis for cleanings. However, if the abutment tooth is lost, the partial denture can become uncomfortable to use. The typical solution to this problem to repair the partial denture by adding a fake tooth to that spot as well try to use another tooth to be an abutment tooth. However, as this is done by a dental laboratory, generally the partial has to be taken for one or two weeks to be repaired which for many patients is not doable as generally the teeth on the partial denture show in the smile. I generally end up making a new partial for these patients as they don’t want any gaps in their smile for that long of a time. While no one loves having to make an entirely new partial due to losing a tooth, I find that having a backup partial is a good idea so that you don’t have to be as worried about being unable to smile.
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I hope that this three-part series was useful to you and gave you some insight into how partials and dentures work. If you do wear a denture or a removable dental prosthesis, I think that the most important part to helping prevent these problems from happening is to see your dentist once a year if you are missing all your teeth and twice a year if you have teeth remaining. If you have any questions about your dentures, please give us a call to schedule a free consultation so that we can help you out.