Types of Dentures: The Differences Explained

There are several types of dentures.  This page will give you a summary on the various types of dentures and when they are suitable.  Dentures are classed depending on whether or not there are natural teeth remaining in the mouth to support them.  Dentures are also classed on the types of material used to make them.

 

Types of Dentures: Main Categories

  • Partial dentures; when some teeth remain on the jaw (i.e. upper or lower jaw).  Partial dentures can be acrylic (plastic) or metal.
  • Complete dentures; when there are no teeth remaining on that jaw.
  • Overdentures.  See our page on overdentures.
  • Immediate dentures.

 

An image of a metal partial denture

A partial denture with a metal frame

Partial Dentures

Partial dentures are one way to replace teeth that are missing.  Partial dentures usually refer to the type that can be removed (as opposed to fixed partial dentures, usually called bridges).

Before a partial denture is fitted, any other work that is needed in the mouth is usually carried out first.  This will include any fillings and gum work that is needed.  Sometimes the teeth that hold the partial denture in place will need adjusted, built out or even crowned to help secure the denture better.

The base of the denture is made from either metal or plastic (acrylic), and the teeth are usually acrylic (although porcelain teeth are sometimes used).

The base can include metal clasps and attachments to help keep the denture secure.

 

"Image of an acrylic partial denture with clear clasps"

Acrylic (‘plastic’) partial denture with clear clasps

“Which material is best?”

The different types of partial denture material have different benefits and drawbacks.

  • Metal partial dentures have superior strength and can be made smaller and thinner than plastic ones.  They are generally more hygienic and more tolerable as they do not need to cover as much of the mouth.  However they are much more expensive to make than plastic dentures.
  • Plastic dentures are cheaper and easier to make.  They may damage the gums around natural teeth if not designed and then cleaned properly. They are often the ideal choice as immediate dentures, i.e. an immediate replacement for teeth that need to be extracted.
  • An advance in plastic dentures is a new type of flexible denture which may suit some mouths very well.

The choice between the two will be made with your dentist although metal dentures are usually the best in the long-term, so long as they can be afforded.

 

Complete Dentures

"Image of Full upper dentures"

A full upper denture

These are dentures that are placed on a jaw that has no natural teeth remaining.  They are usually made from plastic (acrylic).  They therefore rest directly on the gum that overlies the bone in the mouth.

Upper dentures are usually much more stable than lower dentures.  This is because of the suction that can be gained from covering the roof of the mouth.  This suction is not possible in the lower jaw due to the position of the tongue.

 

Immediate dentures

These are dentures that are fitted immediately after a tooth or several teeth are extracted.  They are a temporary denture, used to replace these teeth as the mouth heals.  This process can take several months, so the final denture/bridge etc. is not fitted until the healing is complete.

In the interim time the immediate denture (sometimes referred to as a ‘flipper’) acts as a ‘stop-gap’.  Acrylic (plastic) is normally used to make this type of denture.  Acrylic can be easily adjusted and remolded as the gum shrinks away after extraction.

 

Summary

There are a variety of different types of dentures.  They differ in terms of how they are held in your mouth and in terms of the materials made to make them.  Which type of denture you may need and which material is best can be decided with your dentist.

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