What Is a Partial Denture, and Is It Better Than a Bridge?


Regain confidence in your smile.

Life carries a lot of simple joys, many of which are experienced with other people—wide smiles, shared laughter, delicious meals. When you’re missing one or more teeth, however, it can be hard to let go and fully enjoy these moments without worrying about the way your teeth look or function. Thankfully, you don’t have to feel that way! Modern dentistry offers many tooth replacement options that can restore the function and appearance of your missing teeth while helping to protect your future oral health.

It’s normal to begin your search for tooth replacement options without much preexisting knowledge on the topic. You may have heard about bridging the gap in your smile with a dental bridge, for example, but may have never heard of partial dentures. You want the best long-term results possible, so it’s natural to ask, “Which tooth replacement option is best? What’s the difference between partial dentures and bridges?” We want you to love your new smile, so we’ve done our best to explain these tooth replacement options below.

What is a partial denture?

A partial denture is a dental restoration designed to replace multiple missing teeth. Generally, a partial denture consists of prosthetic teeth and acrylic gums, sometimes with a metal framework for added strength. There are several types of partial dentures, each of which is held in place using different methods, such as suction or precision attachments on the backs of healthy teeth. Partial dentures are designed specifically for you, helping them feel more comfortable and look more natural than you may expect them to. The gums and teeth on partial dentures are both incredibly good at blending in with your natural smile, so it’s not uncommon for others to not even realize you have them. As long as it fits well, your restoration should feel secure, so you won’t have to worry about it shifting around or falling out while you’re trying to eat or speak. This will help restore your confidence during tasks like eating, speaking, and smiling by making them simple and natural again.

What is a dental bridge?

Dental bridges have a surprisingly descriptive name. The most common type replaces one or two missing teeth by functioning much like a bridge. Two crowns on either end of a dental bridge serve as the bridge’s foundations, supporting one or two prosthetic teeth between them. The dental crowns are placed on the healthy teeth on either end of the gap in your smile, allowing the prosthetic teeth to fill that gap. Just like partial dentures, dental bridges are custom-made for you to ensure they fit comfortably and blend into your smile naturally. Their secure placement allows them to restore the appearance of your smile as well as the function of your missing teeth.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Partial dentures and dental bridges are both effective tooth replacement options that restore the function and appearance of missing teeth while helping to protect your future oral health, but they go about this in different ways. As a result, they have unique strengths and weaknesses. Partial dentures are best for replacing three or more missing teeth, including teeth that aren’t all in a single gap. This makes their application a little more flexible than that of bridges, which can generally only replace one or two teeth that are missing in a single stretch. Partial dentures are secure enough that you shouldn’t have to worry that they’ll fall out while you’re eating or speaking, but dental bridges tend to feel more comfortable, secure, and natural because they’re held in place by crowns on healthy natural teeth.

Caring for partial dentures also looks much different than it does for dental bridges. Both need to be cleaned every day, but partial dentures generally take more time to care for and need to be removed every night before you go to sleep, which opens you up to the danger of losing them. Bridges are fixed in place and require the same care as your natural teeth with a single extra step: cleaning under the prosthetic teeth with a special brush to keep the gums beneath them healthy. With proper care, a dental bridge can last around 15 years or more, but partial dentures typically only last around five years. That said, partial dentures tend to cost less than dental bridges.

When is a partial denture or dental bridge recommended over the other?

Since bridges can only span a single gap and require two healthy teeth on either side of the gap in your smile, they’re generally recommended when you’re missing one or two teeth in a row but your other teeth are healthy. If your other teeth aren’t healthy or are at an increased risk of decay, a dental bridge might not be the best option. This is often where partial dentures come in. They’re less expensive and typically last for less time than bridges, so partial dentures are easier to replace based on your changing oral health needs. Partial dentures may also be recommended if you’re missing three or more teeth. Even if your missing teeth aren’t right next to each other, such as having one or two healthy teeth between two gaps in your smile, a single partial denture can still replace all of these missing teeth. This makes partial dentures a good choice for more extensive tooth loss.

Are there other potential treatment options?

Yes, there is another incredibly effective treatment option you can use to replace missing teeth: dental implants. Dental implants consist of one or more titanium metal rods that are embedded into your jawbone to replace your natural tooth roots, then topped with a tooth prosthesis. Implants are incredibly versatile because you can place a crown, bridge, partial dentures, or full dentures on them to replace anywhere from a single tooth to all of your missing teeth. Since they’re rooted directly into your jawbone like a tooth root and encourage the bone to grow around them, they feel natural and secure—and they even protect against bone loss in your jaw, which no other tooth replacement option can do! Implants really are the next best thing to regaining your natural teeth, but the higher cost and sometimes lengthy surgical process mean that they aren’t for everyone.

The most important thing to remember when you’re choosing a method of replacing missing teeth is that you have unique treatment needs and wants—both of which matter! These unique factors mean that the best treatment option is different for everyone, so the best thing you can do is work with your dentist to figure out which treatment will work for you.

Reach out to the Tomasik Family Dental team for more info!

Replacing your missing teeth can transform your life by protecting your future oral health and restoring your confidence in the function and appearance of your teeth. With strong, natural restorations in place, you’ll be able to experience simple joys like laughing and eating great food again—without sparing a second thought for your teeth! If you’d like to learn more about tooth replacement options from your Hill Country dentist in Bee Cave, feel free to schedule an appointment at any time!