Every tooth in your mouth is vital to maintaining proper alignment.  When teeth are missing — even one tooth — the adjacent teeth can drift into the spaces left behind, and this can have an effect on your bite, your speech, your smile, and even the shape of your face.

When several teeth are missing, the option is usually between partial dentures and bridges.  While both improve your ability to chew and talk, a decision will depend on how each will work with your remaining teeth, because they function differently.  Also, each system has a unique care regimen, which may weigh on your decision.  The goal is to preserve your oral health, which depends on good dental hygiene, and decrease the risk of periodontal disease and expensive treatments.  It can also ease stress on your jaw.

If you have multiple missing teeth that need to be replaced, and/or if there is a risk of more tooth loss, a partial denture may be the best choice, while bridges work best when there are small gaps on the same side of your mouth, and adjacent teeth already have crowns.  Another consideration is that partial dentures are easier to adjust and repair, and if you have budget constraints, they are usually less expensive.  If you tend to drop or misplace things, though, partial dentures can become broken or lost, while a non-removable bridge remains safely fixed in your mouth.

The optimal starting point to decide if dentures are an option for you is to see a prosthodontist — a specialist who focuses on the restoration and replacement of teeth.  These specialists have an additional three years of training after dental school, and have skills to handle even the most complex cases.  They can best help you determine if there are other treatment options that might be more advantageous for your unique conditions. They’re also highly trained in the art of color and shade matching.

There are three basic types of construction:

  • cast metal and plastic,
  • plastic and wire, and
  • all-plastic.

Removable partial dentures are custom made for you.  They have a metal framework with clasps that attach to natural teeth that are still present and hold it securely in place, or they can be made completely out of more natural looking acrylic.  Metal partials are generally preferred because they are stronger and structurally superior, thinner, and more hygienic than an acrylic partial, which is most often used for a temporary.  The device is placed over the gums and bone where the teeth are missing, and can easily be unclipped and removed.  The replacement teeth are built into pink or gum-colored plastic bases.  If needed, dental implants can also be used to stabilize partial dentures.

You may find it awkward at first while adjusting to eating and speaking with your partial denture, but you will quickly become accustomed to it.  It will also take some time to learn how to insert, remove, and clean partial dentures, but this is very important to your oral health. Your dentist can give you some tips and instructions to help you speed up the process.

Partial dentures are not much more difficult to maintain than your natural teeth.  They need thorough brushing twice a day to remove food deposits and dental plaque. They need to be removed daily, and it is usually recommended to leave them out while you sleep, placing them in water or a soaking solution to keep them moist.  You need to be aware that partial dentures are very delicate and break easily, so it’s important to handle them with care:

  • Stand over a folded towel or sink full of cool water while cleaning your dentures.
  • Brush all surfaces gently with a brush specially designed for cleaning dentures or soft bristle toothbrush.
  • Avoid using household cleaners or bleach to clean your dentures.
  • Do not let dentures dry out or they can be damaged: put them in water or a recommended cleaning solution (rinse chemicals off before reinserting) when not wearing them.
  • Keep dentures away from curious children and pets when not wearing them.

If properly taken care of, partial dentures should last a good long time, at least 5 to 10 years, but they can last longer than that.  The cast metal type has the most strength and longevity.  Acrylic is expected to last 6 to 12 months, but can last up to 5 years, and the newer flexible acrylic is thought to be the same.  In any event, the jawbone will change shape and size over time and dentures, full and partial, then need to be relined or replaced.

In Costa Rica, you can get a denture that will satisfy your dental needs for a fraction of the price one would expect to pay in the US or Canada. Dentists listed with the Costa Rica Dental Guide offer full or partial dentures made with the most modern materials and with the same quality that you’d expect from a denture manufactured in the United States or Europe.

If you are interested in partial dentures in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.