Dentures are dental prosthetics that replace missing teeth and sometimes periodontal tissues (bone and gingival) as well. As is the case with other forms of dental treatment, it is important to do a thorough exam in order to correctly determine what type of denture is best suited for each patient. One of the first and most important factors to consider is the patient’s preferences, expectations, and primary goal for their mouth. Depending on the amount of tissue missing, there are several options available, all with the same objective in mind: improve esthetics, function, and overall health. See below for descriptions and options for replacing missing teeth.

Stayplate/Flipper: This appliance usually replaces 1 to 3 missing teeth, and is more often a temporary solution to until a more permanent treatment can be completed. Wearing the stayplate helps keep the remaining teeth in the correct position, and it maintains esthetics and chewing functions.

Partial Denture: A partial denture is similar to a stayplate, except that it serves as a more permanent solution. As such, it is built with a durable metal substructure to withstand long-term forces of chewing. With the teeth embedded in pink acrylic resin, the partial denture also closely mimics natural tissue, providing esthetic results, in addition to improved function.

Complete Denture: The complete denture replaces a full arch of teeth and any missing supporting structures. One of the consequences of complete edentulism is that the facial muscles lose support, giving the face a “sunken”, older look. Once a complete denture is delivered, the dramatic change in appearance of one’s face is drastically improved, along with the ability to chew and articulate words.

Implant Over-denture: This prosthetic appliance is basically same structure as a complete denture, except instead of relying solely on the patient’s tissues for support, implants act as anchors in the bone to help retain and support the denture. This form of treatment greatly increases patient’s overall satisfaction with their dentures, as the denture is held in place with the help of the implants. It is not uncommon for people with conventional dentures to transition to implant over-dentures.

Complete Fixed Denture: The complete fixed denture is similar to the conventional denture in that it replaces a full arch of missing teeth, except that a fixed denture appliance cannot be removed. Furthermore, instead of acrylic plastic, these dentures are usually made from porcelain or zirconia, both of which provide superior esthetic and durable results. This appliance is screw-retained to several implants embedded in bone, creating results that are closest to natural teeth when compared to other denture appliances.

Although the aforementioned dental prosthetics provide a great service, we always like to remind our patients that nothing is better than natural teeth, and that we should always do everything within reason to keep the teeth we have. That being said, it is important to understand that even though we always do our best to fabricate the best possible appliance for every patient, the amount of function regained with dentures, especially complete dentures, is a only a small fraction of what is offered by real teeth. Part of explaining the different options is setting accurate expectations for the patient. If you are missing teeth, we encourage you to ask your dentist what options would be best suited for your needs.