When we have lost some teeth that are adjacent to each other, partial dentures can be a good, economical solution. Partial dentures are artificial teeth that attach to the healthy natural teeth on either side. Not only do they improve our appearance, but they also keep the remaining teeth in alignment, which can prevent periodontal disease and TMJ disorder.
Partial Dentures, Then and Now
The photo on the left shows a traditional partial denture. You can see that the prosthetic teeth attach to a metal framework. Clasps at both ends of the framework secure the appliance to the healthy teeth. Since the clasps are hidden behind the teeth they are secured to, they provide a relatively strong and appealing method of replacement.
More recently, partial dentures have been made of plastic, offering a more comfortable and aesthetic solution. The pink, translucent plastic structure in the photo to the right closely mimics the appearance of the gums. In addition, the appliance is more comfortable because there are no metal clasps to irritate the soft tissue. The problem with this type of partial is that it is not as long-lasting or as strong as the traditional method. And, of course, neither method is a permanent solution.
Permanent Alternatives to Partial Dentures
Partial dentures are not ideal because, as with full removable dentures, they can shift and cause discomfort or soreness, and they make regular hygiene more problematic.
A dental bridge can offer a more aesthetic, permanent and comfortable solution. Dental bridges use the healthy teeth on either side of the gap to anchor the prosthetic teeth between them. The dentist first prepares the two outer teeth for crowns, then permanently attaches the artificial teeth between them. The photo to the left shows what a dental bridge that involves three teeth looks like.
The best possible solution for missing teeth is dental implants, shown in the diagram to the right. They replace the tooth root and the visible part of the tooth. This prevents the body from absorbing the minerals in the jawbone that once supported the missing teeth, a process that can lead to a serious condition called facial collapse. The disadvantages of dental implants are that they cost more than partials or bridges, and they require a healing period between the surgery and the placement of the crowns.
If you would like to read more about this alternative, click here to read our dental implants page. You can discuss your options with Dr. Price in a brief complimentary consultation, or you can schedule a full exam and consultation by calling our office.