Removable partial dentures (RPDs) are a common replacement option for multiple lost teeth. However, they're not the best long-term option; in fact, one particular type of RPD could be a poor choice if you wish to wear them long-term.
Made primarily of plastic, these RPDs are sometimes referred to as “flippers” because of how the tongue can easily flip them out of the mouth. While some people see them as a permanent replacement for their lost teeth, in reality plastic-based RPDs are a transitional replacement — a stepping stone, if you will, to a permanent solution. They are most useful during healing following a periodontal procedure or during the waiting period after implant surgery.
However, they can pose problems to your long-term oral health if worn permanently. Because of the manner in which they fit to the gums and any remaining teeth, they tend to settle into and compress the gum tissues. If you have gum disease, they force infection deeper into the tissues. They also allow and promote bacterial plaque growth. This in turn may lead to increased incidences of decay and gum disease.
On the other hand, a metal RPD, ideally made of cast vitallium or gold alloy, fits more snugly and accurately in the mouth. They still can cause increased plaque and food retention, but if the wearer also adheres to sound daily oral hygiene practices, regular dental checkups and diligent care of the RPD, they can be used successfully for many years.
Although a metal RPD costs more than its plastic counterpart, they cost less than more permanent teeth replacements. They are lighter in weight than plastic RPDs and fit more securely to deflect the forces generated by biting.
In considering your options for replacing lost teeth, you should not view plastic transitional RPDs as a permanent solution, but rather as a temporary one until you can obtain a more permanent solution. And although not the most optimal choice, the metal RPD could be considered a more permanent cost-effective solution.
If you would like more information on your options regarding removable partial dentures, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removable Partial Dentures.”