Partial Dentures

Partial dentures fill the void when only some of the natural dentition is missing. These can range from a small one or two tooth appliance, to a large restoration that replaces almost all your teeth. A partial denture is an excellent and economical way to restore your smile.

Partial dentures are removable appliances designed to fit around and anchor to remaining natural dentition. They restore appearance and function, as well serve to stabilize remaining dentition to help guard against natural teeth drifting into the unoccupied spaces created by tooth loss. The number of natural teeth missing, and the position of what remains, will make a difference in the type of design that is best suited for your situation.

As with many aspects of dentistry, there is often more than one treatment avenue available. The following information covers some of the more basic and common designs, however the variations can be extensive.

  • This is probably the most common type of design and has a proven track record for reliability.


    Pros Cons
    • Moderately priced
    • Generally good to excellent retention
    • Rigid rest components that guard against movement when chewing and better protection for soft tissues and natural dentition
    • Very strong, allowing for thin and small appliance
    • Claps can generally be adjusted to increase retention when required
    • Metal parts, if visible, can be less attractive
    • Some patients have allergies to metals
    • Metals conduct heat more readily than plastics



  • Thermoflex, or flexible non-metal partials, are a more recent development in partial denture design. However, like so many things in dentistry they are not a one size fits all. Depending on the particular teeth you have remaining, and the design that will be required to fill in the spaces around them, this may or may not be a suitable appliance for you.

    Thermoflex partials do have some advantages. Many patients are plainly unhappy to have anything metal in their mouth; sometimes due to allergic considerations, other times due to a more holistic philosophy. Areas where metal clasping might be more visible, and less desirable, the tooth coloured clasps can blend in perfectly providing superior aesthetics. The flexibility of resin clasps often allow more engagement in the undercut areas of remaining natural teeth, yielding a superior retention. Slightly lighter weight is another attribute of these designs.

    There are some downsides to consider. Being highly flexible, this appliance has less rigid components, an attribute that gives metal frames superior longevity. Patients with heavy bite force can sometimes overcome the stability of flex frame appliances, causing them to bend out of shape. At particular risk are the rest components which are small tabs that fit on top of or in pre prepared grooves on the natural tooth surfaces. The intended function is to prevent the appliance from sliding down the tooth while under heavy chewing load. Rests that are made of flexible material will often give way over time. If an appliance is allowed to shift up and down on a tooth, the delicate tissues that surround the structure, called gingival, can become irritated. This irritation can lead to inflammation and is definitely not a healthy condition. Along with the concerns for tissue health, the longevity and fit of this appliance is also shortened when rests fail. The same downward pressure begins to bow both the clasps and reciprocal arms outward. Over time this will see the appliance become loose.

    Sometimes a hybrid between cast frame partials and flexible resin partials is the ideal answer. In these cases the components that truly need to be rigid, the main frame and rests, are done in metal. While the more visual areas, where flexibility and aesthetics are important, are fabricated with tooth coloured resin clasps. Now we have an appliance that is both stable, has good longevity and good visual aesthetics.

    These are just a few of the very basic variations to consider. As with any dental appliance, the key is in the right design for your mouth and your personal requirements. Regular checkups and proper maintenance remain key components to successful and healthy function with any dental appliance.

  • This type works very well when only one or two natural teeth remain. The most common application is on the lower arch. These appliances are basically designed as a full denture with openings to accommodate natural dentition. A soft rubber or silicone material is used like a gasket in these openings to provide retention around the entire tooth circumference.

    Pros Cons
    • They are easily converted to a full denture in the event remaining natural dentition is lost
    • They provide a gentle non-metal retention that will not scrape or damage natural tooth surfaces
    • Excellent aesthetics as there are no visual metal components
    • Covers over unattractive areas where gingival tissue has receded, exposing underlying tooth root
    • Generally provides excellent retention and in particular around a remaining molar
    • Will require a gasket replacement every two to five years
    • Not as easy to increase retention

  • Titanium is unique in many ways; it is very strong, lightweight, biocompatible and durable in extreme environments. Titanium is also inert to human body fluids.  These properties make it the material of choice for many medical procedures including replacement of shoulder joints, elbow joints, knee joints, hip joints, spinal fusion cages, toe and finger implants and even some pacemaker parts.  It is also used in dental implants which are placed into the jaw bone and used to attach and support crowns, bridges and even dentures.

    Titanium is now gaining support by many as a superior material to use when building partial denture frames. It is much lighter in weight than conventional chrome metals yet offers equal or better strength. It also has very low thermal conductivity which makes it feel more natural in the mouth.  Also the elimination of metallic taste is a common attribute expressed by patients.  It is more biocompatible for those with allergies or sensitivities to metals.

    Plastic or flexible frame partials have also provided benefit for patients sensitive to metals, light in weight and simple design.  Unfortunately a common complaint is very short lifespan with some appliances breaking apart or having rest and clasp components bent out of shape in only a couple of years.  As well, plastic partials are often thick as the extra bulk is needed to provide strength and in particular when used to replace molars.  Titanium is light in weight like plastic but so strong and rigid the frames can be kept thin and less obtrusive in the oral environment.

    There are a few downsides to titanium including a duller, less polished appearance when compared to conventional metal.  However, the main drawback is the increased cost.  Expect to spend at least three to five hundred more for a titanium partial over a standard frame.

    For many the superior longevity, light weight, natural feel and biocompatibility make the investment in quality well worthwhile.

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    I have trained myself for years not to smile because I was self conscious of the gaps. It is so nice to be proud to smile again!. – 2016