What is a fixed partial denture?

fixed-partial-denturePartial dentures are used in cases where some of the natural teeth remain, but multiple adjacent teeth are missing. This dental device works to replace the appearance and function of the missing teeth. Fixed partial dentures fill in the gap caused by one or more missing teeth, enabling the wearer to chew food and preventing the surrounding teeth from shifting into the gap.

Unlike a full set of dentures, partial dentures cannot rely on suction to hold them in place. There are several methods used to anchor partial dentures. In some cases, they are removable. In other cases, they are fixed in place, either to the surrounding teeth or to dental implants anchored to the jaw bone. Fixed partial dentures may only be removed by a dentist; they cannot be removed by the wearer.

Partial dentures may be affixed to the natural teeth surrounding the gap. This is the most common form of fixed partial dentures. First, crowns are cemented onto the natural teeth. These will support the bridge. Then, a metal device is used to bridge the gap created by the missing tooth. This method requires that the natural teeth surrounding the gap are in good overall shape.

In some cases, the denture may be supported by a natural tooth at only one end of the bridge. This cantilever-style bridge is less commonly used because it is not as stable. In most cases, the bridge is anchored to the natural teeth on both sides of the gap.

Implant-Secured Dentures:
When the condition of surrounding teeth does not make it possible to secure the denture using a bridge, the denture may be anchored using an implant. Dental implants are small titanium screws inserted into a hole drilled in the jaw bone. Over time, the screw fuses to the bone, forming a strong bond with which to anchor the denture in the mouth. This method requires patients to have adequate bone in which to place the implant. Implants function like the root of a natural tooth, holding the denture in place. Depending on the number of missing teeth being replaced by the denture, this method may utilize one or several implants.

The Partial Denture Device:
Regardless of the method of fixing the denture in the mouth, the denture device itself will be similar in structure. The denture device itself consists of a faux tooth (known as a pontic) to replace the missing tooth or teeth. The false tooth may be made of a variety of materials such as porcelain, porcelain fused onto metal, or gold. It is affixed either to the natural teeth around the gap, or to the dental implant.

Benefits of Fixed Partial Dentures:
Aside from improving speech and chewing abilities, a partial denture also restores the appearance of the smile by filling in the gap. This structure can also help to correct an altered bite and prevent surrounding teeth from moving into the gap created by the missing teeth. With proper care, this device usually lasts about a decade.

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