Dental partials involve two basic parts: There are artificial teeth and gums, and there's a framework in your mouth to support those artificial teeth and gums. Artificial teeth and gums are commonly molded from porcelain or acrylic resin. There are a few types of support systems. The most common type relies on clasps that attach the partial to neighboring teeth, and this framework may be made of hard metal alloy, acrylic or a combination of the two. For people looking for the most cosmetically advanced dental partial, there are semi-precision and precision partials that use a framework of interlocking components rather than metal clasps. This type of support system is typically formed from semi-rigid metal, nylon material or a combination of both, and because it doesn't rely on clasps, it offers the most natural look.
To get the proper fit for your mouth and specific tooth replacement needs, your dentist will schedule a series of appointments to complete the process, usually spread out over about a month. To begin, you'll undergo a complete oral exam to check for decay, gum disease and other oral health problems that should be addressed before your appliance fitting.
Your dentist will then make a set of impressions, which are a model of your teeth and gums, as well as a bite registration, which is a model of how your upper and lower teeth fit together when you bite down. Your dental partial will be formed based on these impressions and your bite registration to guarantee the best fit for your mouth. Depending on the health and shape of the teeth neighboring your missing tooth (or teeth), your dentist may decide to crown or reshape those neighboring teeth to ensure the best fit for the framework of the partial. Models of your dental partial will be made to adjust for fit, feel, color and shape, as well as bite and jaw alignment, before the final customized prosthetic is created.
While it may take a few days to weeks for your new teeth to feel natural in your mouth, there's a difference between getting used to your partial and an ill-fitting partial. While your new teeth may feel bulky at first, after the first few weeks, a well-fitted dental partial will feel no different from your natural teeth. It's important your dental partial fits properly, not only to ensure that it looks and feels comfortable inside your mouth, but also to decrease the chance it may slip, make sounds when you speak or eat, or cause sore spots and rubbing. A dental partial that doesn't fit may cause damage to your natural teeth, your gums and your jawbone.
Dental partials should last anywhere from 7 to 15 years, but during that time your partial will need to be adjusted and refit to accommodate changes such as shrinkage in your gums and jawbone.