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A removable partial denture is a set of false or replacement teeth. Dentures are either manufactured in a complete set or a partial set, depending on the amount of teeth that need to be replaced. If all of the teeth in a person’s mouth need replacement, a set of complete dentures is required. If a person has some original teeth that do not need replacement, a partial set of dentures is created to fit around the existing teeth.
As the name suggests, removable partial dentures are not permanently applied and are able to be removed by the wearer. This allows the denture to be removed for cleaning and maintenance. A removable partial denture generally consists of plastic, acrylic or porcelain prosthetic teeth attached to a gum-colored base that is made of a hard plastic or flexible nylon-type of material.
Removable partial dentures may be attached to the teeth in several different ways, depending on the specific requirements of the wearer. The first type is often known as a temporary or treatment partial denture, or colloquially as a flipper. A temporary removable partial denture typically consists off prosthetic teeth attached to a plastic or acrylic base. The denture may be attached to the teeth with metal clamps or the base may be designed and shaped to hold the denture in place.
Flippers are typically the most economical dental prosthesis and are not designed for long-term use. They are often used as a temporary means of preserving the oral appearance of the wearer while a longer lasting denture alternative is being manufactured. However, many patients do use a flipper for an extended period of time without needing or desiring a more expensive alternative.
A second type of removable partial denture is constructed around a cast metal framework and is often called a cast metal removable partial denture. These types of dentures are designed to be longer-lasting and more comfortable for the wearer than a flipper design. The teeth are attached to a gum-colored acrylic base and are connected through a metal framework that is specifically molded to fit each patient.
Most cast metal removable partial dentures are designed so that the framework does not come into much contact with the gums. This prevents oral sore spots from chafing and rubbing that is commonplace with the flipper design. A cast metal removable partial denture may be attached with metal clasps that attach to existing teeth, known as abutment teeth. A dentist may need to re-shape the abutment teeth to ensure that the clasps are firmly secured, while remaining comfortable for the patient.
Other cast metal removable partial dentures use what is known as a precision attachment. The partial removable denture has a male attachment which connects to the female portion of the attachment on a crown in the mouth. A precision attachment eliminates the need for metal clasps which may cause damage to abutment teeth if not properly maintained, and are often visible and may be considered unsightly by some.