Did you know that there are different kinds of partial dentures? Do you know what you are paying for when your dentist tells you that he/she is making you a partial denture? You need to ask what kind of partial denture you are getting. There are all-acrylic partial dentures, acrylic partial dentures with wrought-wire clasps, flexible partial dentures, cast metal partial dentures, semi-precision partial dentures and precision partial dentures – just to name a few! The dentist needs to do a careful diagnosis and treatment plan and discuss with the patient the pros and cons of each of the options. The dentist needs to take superior impressions and bite registrations and pour superior models.
The acrylic partial denture is the least expensive – that is the advantage, but there are many disadvantages, such as lack of retention and lack of durability. The acrylic denture is made of plastic and often incorporates wrought-wire clasps for added retention. Acrylic dentures are often prescribed as a temporary device when an immediate denture is required – as, for example, if a front tooth is lost, the acrylic denture will serve as replacement while a more permanent solution is being fabricated. We also use it sometimes to replace a tooth while an implant is healing.It also might be used when finances are a limiting factor.
The flexible partial denture is made entirely of acrylic and instead of incorporating wire clasps like the acrylic denture, it incorporates flexible tooth colored clasps. Valplast is one such product. The flexible partial denture is thus more aesthetic than the acrylic denture and is more durable. It is a more permanent solution when aesthetics is a concern, for example if a front tooth has to be clasped for retention. Although the flexible partial will loosen and discolor in time and is not indicted for a smoker, it can serve quite well for a number of years.
A variation is the Virginia Partial which we have used with great success. This is a tissue born, acrylic-based denture that uses a soft silicone band around any remaining teeth. The flexible band replaces metal clasps. The result is greater aesthetics and comfort for the patient.
The cast metal partial denture is superior to the acrylic and flexible partial dentures in that it fits better and is more durable. It will serve a patient well for many years. Our cast frameworks are made by Lab One – a very fine denture laboratory in Norfolk, Virginia. They also make our fabulous dentures. The metal clasps are cast with the metal framework and fit snugly around the teeth. The metal framework also fits snugly on the residual ridge. The metal denture is comfortable and durable and can be aesthetic depending on which teeth are missing and the skill of the dentist and technician.
The precision partial denture is the Rolls Royce of partial dentures. The precision attachment is a precision-machined male and female, or lock and key, housing to connect the removable partial denture to a fixed bridge. The female part of the attachment is connected to a fixed crown and the male part is attached to the partial denture. The two parts are machined to fit with precision. The precision partial denture is most aesthetic as there are no clasps and it is most comfortable as the connectors are precisely manufactured to fit. The disadvantage is the higher cost to accomplish this superior device and that the nearby teeth would have to have crowns.
The semi-precision partial denture is similar to the precision type but is not as precisely machined and is therefore somewhat less expensive.
In our Long Island dental office, we always discuss with our patients the advantages and disadvantages of each option and help the patient decide which option is best for their particular situation. Regardless of the choice, it takes great skill, caring and judgment on the part of the dentist and dental technician to deliver a superior product.