A partial denture is one of the most common tools we use in the field of dentistry. Functionally they are largely the same as full dentures with the primary purpose being to replace missing teeth. These types of dentures are made from a wide variety of materials including plastic, acrylic, and ceramic. To construct one there are several steps that we go through.
The most important step is to carefully measure the space that the partial denture is going to occupy. This typically takes 2 – 3 appointments to accomplish. There are several measurements that we are concerned with. First is the space between the teeth. This is important from both a comfort, function, and health perspective.
If the gaps between the teeth are too small it will not only look odd, but will diminish the capacity of the denture recipient to use that section of their mouth. Worse because of a lack of support, the surrounding teeth could change position in the mouth. On the other hand if a partial is too large it will place strain on the surrounding teeth which can cause significant discomfort and force the real teeth to shift in the gums in order to make more room.
Similar to measuring the gap between teeth we are also concerned with making sure the length of the partial denture match a normal bite pattern. This will make sure that patient is able to use their dentures with very little noticeable difference between the fake and the real teeth.
All partial dentures are custom fit to the patient. There is no once size fits all standard. Additionally the exact process and material of construction can vary from patient to patient depending upon how the gums react to prolonged contact with the construction material.
For most of my patients I find that partial dentures are the simplest and safest means available to give them a smile they can be proud of.