Bridges and partial dentures

Dentures improve your health and appearance, restoring function for eating and speaking. Whether you need a full or partial denture, the appliance will be custom-made to suit your mouth and will closely resemble natural teeth.

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Why should I replace missing teeth?

Your appearance is one reason. Another is that the gap left by a missing tooth can mean greater strain is put on the teeth at either side. A gap can also mean your ‘bite’ is affected, because the teeth next to the space can lean into the gap and alter the way the upper and lower teeth bite together. This can then lead to food getting packed into the gap, which causes both decay and gum disease.

How are missing teeth replaced?

This depends on the number of teeth missing and on where they are in the mouth. The condition of the other teeth also affects the decision. There are three main ways to replace the missing teeth. The first is with a removable false tooth or teeth – a partial denture. The second is with a fixed bridge. The third one is with an implant. A bridge is usually used where there are fewer teeth to replace, or when the missing teeth are only on one side of the mouth.

What is a partial denture?

This is a plate with a number of false teeth on it. It may be all plastic or a mixture of metal and plastic. Both types may have clips (clasps), to help keep the denture in place in the mouth. Depending on where they are, some of these clips may show when you smile or open your mouth.

What are the replacement teeth made of?

Usually plastic, and occasionally porcelain. Each replacement tooth is made specially, to get the right shape, colour and size for you.

What is the difference between a plastic partial denture and one that contains metal?

Plastic partial dentures are less expensive to make. But unless they are designed very carefully they can damage the teeth they fit against. Metal partial dentures are usually lighter to wear and can be supported by the remaining teeth. Although the base is metal, they have gum-coloured plastic and natural-looking teeth fixed to them.

How do I look after my denture?

You should remove the denture from your mouth for cleaning. You’ll be shown how to clean it by your dentist or hygienist, probably with a small toothbrush and toothpaste, or by soaking it in cleansing solution. If you have a metal-based denture you’ll need to choose a cleaning solution that’s suitable for metal.

What is the alternative to a partial denture?

The main alternative is a fixed bridge. This is made by putting crowns on the teeth at either side of the space, and then joining these two crowns together by placing a false tooth in the space. This is all made in the laboratory and then the pieces are cemented into place with special adhesives. The bridge can’t be removed.

Can I always have a bridge to replace missing teeth?

Yes, if you have enough strong teeth with good bone support. Your dentist will help you decide which is the best way of replacing them within your budget.

What are bridges made of?

Bridges can be made of non-precious metal or precious metal covered with porcelain or only porcelain. Please be further advised by your dentist.

How do I look after my bridge?

You need to clean your bridge every day, to prevent problems such as bad breath and gum disease. You also have to clean under the false tooth every day. Your dentist or hygienist will show you how to use a bridge needle or special floss, as a normal toothbrush cannot reach.

Are there other methods for fixing false teeth?

There are other methods, such as using a combination of crowns and partial dentures that can keep the retaining clips out of sight. These are quite specialised dentures, so you should ask your dentist about them.