A partial denture is useful for a person missing some teeth, but who still has a number of natural teeth.
This device also is called a removable prosthesis, and is a means by which artificial replacement teeth are held in the mouth. The prosthesis commonly is kept in place by means of clasps. These are thin finger-like structures, usually made of a special resilient metal alloy or sometimes plastic, that rest upon and wrap around some remaining natural teeth. Clasps keep the prosthesis securely in place, but still allow a person to easily take it out for regular cleaning and proper brushing of remaining natural teeth.
Generally, clasp design is reasonably esthetic, and often it is possible for them not to be seen. However, depending upon partial denture design, which is based on mouth conditions, there may be some show of clasps. Often, this is not an appearance problem. However, if avoiding an unacceptable show of clasps would compromise optimal partial denture design, various special attachments sometimes may be employed to do away with conventional clasps. These attachments are more technically complex and often are referred to as precision or semi-precision attachments.
Accidents happen, and the mouth is constantly changing. Partial dentures may no longer fit properly, can break or bend, or simply wear out. In fact, there is nothing made for the mouth that is permanent. Fractured clasps and so forth often may be repaired.
On average, a partial denture may be expected to last about five years. Depending upon circumstances, certain removable prostheses can last a shorter or longer time.
It is best to have a partial denture, as well as the rest of the mouth, checked at six-month intervals. If left uncorrected, small problems can develop into major ones, which could cause disease, loss of teeth, or necessitate premature prosthesis replacement.
The jaw ridge that a partial denture rests upon is constantly changing. It is normal and necessary to regularly modify how a partial denture contacts the ridge. This maintenance correction is called relining, and on average, needs to be performed annually for optimal function. However, this is dependent upon how an individual's mouth changes. A licensed dentist can best advise when a reline is needed, and when a reline will no longer adequately restore proper function.
by Joseph J. Massad, D.D.S.