Removable partial dentures, or RPDs, are a great way to improve your smile and restore function if you are missing teeth. RPDs contain false teeth-often of acrylic or porcelain-which fi onto a resin base. In order for an RPD to remain stable, the resin base needs metal clasps to secure the appliance to abutment teeth. Unfortunately, some patients may experience issues with clasps.
See how your dentist can improve clasps or see if you are a good candidate for dentures without them.
Why Can Clasps Be a Problem?
Some people simply do not like clasps because they destroy the illusion of natural teeth since the metal clasps wrap around abutment teeth and are noticeable when a person smiles. Some people do not like clasps because they do not secure the RPD well enough or because they cause gum soreness.
Food debris can catch in the clasps, and one study found that RPD clasps can act as reservoirs for bacteria, such as periodontal pathogens.
Can You Improve RPDs With Clasps?
Yes! If appearances are a concern, you could opt for resin clasps that blend better with your gum tissue. If metal clasps are ideal for your situation, your dentist could sandblast the clasps with a micro-etcher to reduce their shine, thus making them less noticeable and more aesthetically pleasing.
If your clasps are loose or too tight, visit your dentist so that he or she can adjust them. Keep in mind that the alveolar bone can shrink when you are missing teeth, so you may need to take your RPD to a denturist for a reline so that the appliance can fit your underlying tissue more accurately. Your clasps may be uncomfortable simply because you have not had your appliance relined for some time.
Lastly, if you are worried about bacteria collecting on the clasps, your dentist can discuss handling and cleaning strategies with you. Instead of yearly or bi-yearly visits, your dentist may recommend more follow-up appointments to reduce pathogen accumulation.
What Are Precision-Fit RPDs?
If you are truly unhappy with your denture clasps, ask your dentist about precision-fit partials. Simply put, precision-fit partials are those that secure the appliances by other means besides clasps.
For instance, your dentist might place an attachment or a crown on the abutment teeth, and then the precision fit-dentures could snap on to those attachments or crowns. Besides improving aesthetics, precision-fit RPDs can be more comfortable for some patients since they are less likely to lift off the gums when a person eats.
One type of precision-fit RPD to opt for is a flexible thermoplastic partial. Unlike standard RPDs, which are made of rigid resins, flexible RPDs are much thinner and contain clasps that fit more naturally around your oral anatomy.
If you have gum recession or partially exposed tooth roots, then flexible RPDs can be great cosmetic solutions. These semi-permanent RPDs are great options for people who are not good candidates for bridges or dental implants.
If appliance stability is your main concern and you have healthy jaw bone remaining, you could opt for RPDs with support from implants. These precision-fit RPDs snap on to posts that are embedded in the jawbone. While these precision-fit RPDs are more expensive, they can help patients retain bone mass and disguise any lost gum tissue.
You can both improve the fit and function of clasps and have precision-fit options for people who want to forgo the clasps entirely.