“Doctor, I would like to replace my missing tooth! What are my options?”
Missing teeth, referred to as edentulism, affects millions of people in America. According to the American College of Prosthodontists, there are 35 million Americans that do not have any teeth and 178 million people that are missing at least one tooth. Edentulism can cause poor nutrition, weight loss, and poor self-esteem, among other problems. As a dentist, I am frequently asked about what treatment options are available to replace missing teeth, and which option is best. The answer is not always easy, since each patient’s anatomy and goals differ, but the simple truth is that modern dentistry has numerous ways to restore missing teeth while restoring patient function and confidence. This article will be the first installment of a three part series that will review three proven methods to restore missing teeth, namely, complete or partial dentures, fixed bridges, and implants. The purpose of this article will be to focus on partial dentures.
What is a partial denture? A partial denture is a removable appliance designed to replace one or more missing teeth in a patient who has some of their natural teeth remaining. We refer to the partial as “removable” since the patient can insert and remove the denture without professional help.
For decades, partial dentures consisted primarily of bulky metal frameworks that were heavy and unaesthetic, but new technology and techniques have allowed us to better engineer partial denture design to become lighter, more stable and more esthetic. A properly designed partial denture should be comfortable, which means that it should have limited movement when in the mouth, allow clear speech, not feel heavy, not trap food and should not irritate the gums, teeth or other tissues in the mouth. The two key words for achieving optimal success are: Design and Materials.
I would like to review three partial denture designs and discuss some of the features of each option.
I. Traditional Partial w/ Metal Framework:
Advantages: Strength, rigidity, track record of success when designed properly
Disadvantages: Slightly more invasive as tooth preparation is required for rest seats, tends to be heavier and less esthetic, generally more steps required for fabrication, some patients may perceive a “metal” taste.
Special Notes: The key to success is the design!
II. Flexible Partials:
Advantages: Thin, lightweight, flexible, biocompatible, minimal to no tooth prep required, natural appearance, quick processing time, no “metal” taste
Disadvantages: Less rigidity and strength compared to metal framework partial, not ideal for patients with few natural teeth remaining, may require rebasing to repair a fracture
Special Notes: Newer technology
III. ClearFrame Partials:
Advantages: Similar stability to metal framework partials, more esthetic, enhanced comfort compared to metal partials, can reline and repair chairside, no “metal” taste
Disadvantages: Not ideal for patients with mobile teeth from periodontal disease or patients with acrylic allergies
Special Notes: Latest technology
Dr. Jeffrey Clark, D.M.D. is a dentist at Lakewood Dental Associates in Huntsville, Texas. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine and completed a Masters in Medical Science from Boston University School of Medicine. He completed a General Practice Residency program at the University of Utah Hospital & Clinics and has advanced training in many aspects of general dentistry. He received the Predoctoral Research Award and was the recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Dental Research from the American Association for Dental Research National Student Research Group (AADR NSRG). His research has been shared at national and international symposiums and at numerous academic institutions including Harvard University.
To learn more about what modern dentistry can do for you visit: www.LakewoodDentalAssociates.com or call 936-291-0032.