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Types of Partials

September 20, 2016
Posted By: Dr. Russell Schafer
Types of Partials | NOLA Dentures and General Dentistry

At NOLA Dentures and General Dentistry, we make a lot of partial dentures or RPDs in dentist speak.  Dentures come in two different classifications: partial dentures or complete dentures.  As the name suggests, complete dentures replace all the teeth in a patient’s mouth whereas partial dentures replace part of the teeth.  When patients need a partial denture, one of the first decisions to be made is what type of partial denture to make.  In this blog, I’d like to discuss the three types of partial dentures: hard acrylic, flexible acrylic, and cast metal.

Acrylic Partial Dentures

Hard acrylic partials are the most common type of partial to be made.  They are made often as they are generally easier and more economical to make.  They used many times for transition while someone waits for implants to heal as well.  While they do use wire clasps to hold them in place, often times the wire can be hidden to make them look esthetic.  The other key advantage to these partials is that they are repairable and teeth can be added if more teeth are lost.  The biggest problem with these partials is that while they are made from strong and hard materials, they are not as strong as natural teeth.  These partials can be worn down by teeth and broken by chewing on hard foods such as ice or nuts.  The other problem is that they typically put a lot of pressure and destructive forces on one or two teeth that hold them in which can harm the natural teeth and cause these teeth to be lost sooner.

The flexible acrylic partial is the newest type of partial available for patients.  As the name implies, it can be bent and moved around, though the amount of flex and stiffness of the partial depends a lot on the type of material used.  These types of partials are preferred by patients who demand no metal show at all in their mouth as the flexible acrylic can be made so that it grips the teeth in place of a wire clasp.  While they often look much more comfortable to patients as the models or examples of them “feel” more comfortable in a person’s hand, I find them to be the opposite.  The biggest problems that I have with the flexible partials are that they are the most difficult to chew with as they don’t resist against harder foods as they are flexible.  Finally, these type of partials put even more uneven forces on the teeth when they flex making these partials more likely to cause further tooth loss.  Also this type of acrylic is difficult to repair if anything breaks and often times it’s easier and cheaper to simply make a new one.

The final type of partial is the cast metal partial.  Cast metal partials use a thin metal base that attaches to the teeth and lays over the gums and is covered by acrylic to look like gums and teeth.  The main advantage of these partials is their strength that they gain from the metal.  When well maintained, they can last many years.  Also it is easier to spread out the forces of chewing on these types of partials and one tooth along will not take a beating.  Teeth that are attached with a well-made cast partial are in essence splinted together allowing them to keep in good health for longer periods of time. Like the hard acrylic partials, these too can be repaired and teeth can be added.  The biggest disadvantage of these is that they take longer to make as the metal framework is more difficult to fabricate compared to the all acrylic types of partials.  Also as per their name, they typically they have more show of metal compared to the other types.  While this metal show can be minimized, it rarely can be eliminated.

Partial dentures are a common treatment as they can restore the smile and bite for many patients.  While partials do take some adjustment to make them feel normal, they are an excellent option for many people.  If you think that you might need a partial, please give us a call so that we can help you out.  

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