Dentures

Dentures are a class of removable dental appliances designed to replace missing teeth. They fall into several categories that include full dentures, overdentures, and implant supported overdentures. Options for removable partial dentures include metal framework, acrylic, or flexible partial denture.

Full Denture

A full denture replaces all the teeth. The upper denture covers all the soft tissue of the upper jaw including the palate. The lower is U shaped and is supported by the jaw bone with flanges extending downward on both sides. Due to their coverage they can reduce taste and feelings of hot and cold, especially with beverages. Normal teeth produce 250 pounds of bite force and dentures can only generate six pounds of force, which means that a denture wearer will have severely limited biting and chewing abilities. This deficit can be modified by saving some of the tooth roots and making an overdenture, or by placing some implants to provide support with an implant supported overdenture. Both options allow for more biting power and help to prevent the appliance from slipping around in the mouth. In both cases the overdenture is removable.

Removable Partial Denture

A removable partial denture generally is used when several teeth are missing and there are some remaining teeth to hold the appliance in place. Clasps are used to improve retention of the appliance to improve chewing and keep the appliance from slipping around. Care must be taken to keep the appliance clean as food may become trapped between the appliance and the tooth, leaving the tooth much more susceptible to decay.

The main advantage of a removable partial compared with implants or fixed bridgework is lower cost. This choice can be aesthetically equivalent to other methods of tooth replacement if clasps are not showing on anterior teeth. In addition, teeth that have a poor prognosis can be added to the partial as they are removed so there may be flexibility for future dental needs with this choice.

The disadvantages of a removable partial include lower bite force and lower comfort when compared to fixed bridgework or implants. Partial dentures can also cause damage remaining teeth since they can put undue pressure on teeth supporting the partial, and the partial may not be as aesthetically appealing as fixed dental work. Bone resorption may also occur secondary to tooth loss and food choices may be limited due to inability to chew some foods effectively.