A dental partial, commonly known as a “partial”, is a prosthetic that you place in your mouth to replace the function and appearance of a few missing teeth. A partial can be either a single unit (one tooth) or a multi-unit (several teeth). It is used in conjunction with the remaining natural teeth. It is usually made of metal and plastic. Partials are available in two forms: removable or fixed.

Partial dentures are designed to match the appearance of the rest of the teeth, including shape, size and color. If partial dentures are designed correctly, they will be comfortable to wear and function just like the rest of your teeth.

How dental partials work

The two main types of dental partials are fixed and removable. A fixed dental partial attaches artificial teeth to the jaw with a dental crown. It can also be attached under the gum with dental implants. Removable dental partials consist of a metal framework with plastic teeth and gum areas. Metal clasps hold the dentures in place, but they can be removed easily for cleaning. Some partials are made with clasps that match the color of the teeth and are less noticeable.

What dental partials do

Partials are generally used when you have lost a few teeth. They make it easier for you to speak and chew. They have two important functions:

1) They help maintain the shape of your face and

2) They help prevent the remaining teeth from shifting.

Dental partials also help eliminate problems that are caused by changes in teeth spacing, such as earaches, headaches, and TMJ (temporal mandibular joint dysfunction).

Temporary Dental partials

Temporary dental partials, also known as “flippers”, can be made before the natural teeth are extracted. A flipper is made of acrylic and replaces one or more teeth until additional or alternative treatment is performed. Your mouth needs to heal for at least four weeks after teeth are extracted before you can obtain a permanent denture. The flipper allows you to eat and speak normally while a permanent denture is created.

Fixed (permanent) partials

Fixed or “permanent” partials are cemented in place or can be attached to dental implants. They look more like natural teeth and are more stable than removable partials. Fixed partials have to be supported by healthy teeth nearby or by dental implant abutments. They can be made of porcelain or of porcelain over a gold framework. Fixed partials are harder to clean than removable partials. Removable partials can be removed and replaced as desired. Materials used in temporary partials are different than those used in permanent partials.

Partials normally should be worn at night. A partial can dry out and distort if left outside a moist environment. Keep your partial immersed in soaking solution or water whenever you are not wearing it.

Over time, adjusting the denture may be necessary. As you age, your mouth naturally changes, which can affect the fit of the denture. Your bone and gum ridges can recede or shrink, resulting in a loose-fitting denture. Loose dentures can cause various problems, including sores or infections. Dentures that do not fit properly should be adjusted by your dentist rather than trying to fix the problem yourself. Using a do-it-yourself kit can damage the appliance beyond repair. Glues sold over-the-counter often contain harmful chemicals and should not be used on a denture. If your denture no longer fits properly, if it breaks, cracks or chips, or if one of the teeth becomes loose, call your dentist immediately. In many cases, they can make necessary adjustments or repairs on the same day.

Wearing Your New Cosmetic Dental Partial

Your partial denture is made to fit your mouth easily. It should not be necessary to force the partial in place. Care should be taken when placing or removing your partial so that the clasps are not damaged.

Replacing missing teeth should make eating a more pleasant experience. By following these basic guidelines, eating on your new partial should soon feel completely natural.

Start out by eating soft foods that are cut into small pieces.

Chew on both sides of the mouth to keep even pressure on the denture.

Avoid foods that are extremely sticky or hard. You may want to avoid chewing gum while you adjust to the denture.

It is very important that you wear your denture every day. If you don’t wear your partial for an extended period of time, the partial may not fit as well as it should.

How to Care for Your Cosmetic Partial

Rinse your dental partial after every meal.

Clean your dental partial thoroughly, at least once a day. As materials for partials may vary, consult with your dentist on which cleaning methods and products are best suited for your particular partial. Never use alcohol, abrasive cleaners, bleaches, whiteners or boiling water to clean or soak your partial, unless specified by the dentist.

While brushing your “other” teeth, pay special attention to cleaning the teeth that fit under the denture’s clasps. Plaque that becomes trapped under the clasps will increase the risk of tooth decay. Your dentist or dental hygienist can demonstrate how to properly brush and clean between teeth.