Dentures and partials are used when all or many of the patient’s teeth are missing or need to be removed, or when the patient feels unable to afford fixed bridges or implant-supported prosthetics.
Complete dentures are employed when a patient has no remaining teeth. They are made
of acrylic and plastic. Upper dentures are kept in with muscular control and a small “suction” effect. Lower dentures are retained by muscular control and gravity. There is no suction to retain lower dentures.
Complete dentures provide approximately 20% of the chewing power of a full set of healthy natural teeth. Therefore, complete dentures result in a marked limitation relative to natural teeth. Also, because complete dentures fully cover the entire palate, dentures reduce the patient’s ability to taste food.
Partial dentures are removable appliances that are worn across the upper or lower arch and replace multiple missing teeth. Partials are held in place by clasping systems that attach to remaining teeth or to implants. They are usually much better tolerated than complete dentures and preserve much more of a person’s chewing power. They are however less hygienic than fixed prosthetics and produce unfavorable forces that can be harmful to the remaining teeth over time. Like full dentures, partials must be removed frequently to facilitate homecare, and should not be worn during sleep. They are often less cosmetic as the clasping systems are usually visible in the individual’s smile. Good esthetics can often be achieved by utilizing hidden clasping systems, but such systems may entail substantially more cost.
With the more widespread use of implants, complete and partial dentures are becoming less utilized in dentistry. They do remain however as a viable treatment option for patients with many missing teeth or who have financial constraints.