When you need to replace your teeth due to age, deterioration, or loss, you’re often faced with a confusing choice: bridge vs partial denture.
Dental bridges and partial dentures are both treatments for missing teeth, so what’s the difference between a bridge and a partial denture?
A dental bridge is a fixed appliance that spans the space where one or more teeth have been lost, with crowns on either end to anchor it. A partial denture, on the other hand, is a removable appliance that replaces some natural teeth.
Both treatments can replace and restore individual missing teeth or multiple ones. However, there are significant differences between a bridge vs dentures and their treatment options.
The main differences between a bridge vs partial are:
- The permanence of the treatment
- Your biting functionality while you eat
- How much stability it provides your mouth
This article will look at the types of partial denture bridges and highlight some of their pros and cons. If you’ve ever wondered what’s the difference between a bridge and a partial denture, read on for the answer!
Bridge vs. Partial Dentures: What Are They?
We’ve already mentioned that both bridges and partial dentures (partials) are dental procedures that replace missing teeth. But there’s other information that’s good to know as you consider a fixed bridge vs. removable partial dentures.
Here’s a more in-depth look at bridges and partials as well as the different types of partial dentures and bridges, so you can make an informed decision.
Partial dentures are removable appliances that replace missing teeth. They usually consist of replacement teeth attached to a gum-colored base. Partials are great for replacing one or several missing teeth, but not an entire set of upper or lower teeth—that’s for full dentures.
When it comes to getting partial dentures made and placed, there are a few different materials and attachment options available.
Here’s a closer look at the most common types of partial dentures.
Types of Partial Denture
There are four types of common partial dentures you might consider.
- Acrylic Partials (Flippers)
With acrylic partials, replacement teeth sit in a pink, acrylic base. This gum-colored base is durable to minimize the risk of breakage and has metal clasps that attach to natural teeth to hold it in place.
Acrylic partials are often used as a temporary option until a more permanent solution is agreed upon (metal partials, dental implants, etc.). However, acrylic partials are made to last for a few years and are also fairly inexpensive if a patient likes them.
It’s also important to note that you can’t eat with acrylic partials—you have to take them out before each meal or snack.
- Metal Partials
Cast metal partials are another common type of partial. They’re comprised of a metal base and a set of acrylic teeth, making them very durable.
Like acrylic partials, cast metal partials attach to existing teeth with metal clasps. However, there is the option to use precision attachments, which are more natural-looking and aesthetically pleasing.
One benefit to metal partials is that if you lose any more teeth, you can send your metal partial back to the lab to add additional teeth.
- Flexible Partials
The third type of partial denture is a flexible denture. This option is a good alternative for people who:
- Think cast metal or acrylic partials are uncomfortable
- Are allergic to the materials used in acrylic or metal partials
Flexible partials are made from a thin, plastic material that’s molded to fit precisely over gum tissue. They’re highly durable and use gum-colored clasps fitted between the teeth, making them nearly invisible.
The only downfall to flexible partials is that they’re harder to realign or repair if damaged. Usually, dentists will need to make an entirely new partial to replace it. This is also true if you lose more teeth—you’ll need an entirely new flexible partial made.
Now that you know more about partial dentures, let’s talk a little about bridges.
Like partial dentures, dentists use a dental bridge to replace missing teeth. So, you might be wondering, “What’s the difference between a bridge and a partial denture?”
The biggest difference when it comes to a bridge vs. partial is that a bridge is fixed in place and can’t be removed, making them a more permanent option than a partial.
Dentists can make bridges from many different materials, including:
- Metal alloys
For back teeth, dentists often use gold or metal alloys because these materials are the strongest and the back teeth aren’t as visible. But for front teeth, dentists will usually use porcelain, as porcelain can be matched to the color of your natural teeth.
Similar to partials, there are many different types of dental bridges available.
Types of Dental Bridges
There are three main types of bridges that dentists can use to replace missing teeth.
- Traditional Fixed Bridge
Traditional bridges are the most common type of fixed bridge. They’re usually formed from ceramic, porcelain fused to metal (PFM), or metal (gold) materials.
A traditional fixed bridge is made up of two crowns that have a fake tooth attached between them. The crowns are fixed to natural teeth on either side of the missing tooth. With the crowns placed over the natural teeth, the fake tooth will sit in your missing tooth hole.
Because traditional bridges use crowns on healthy teeth, you need to have healthy, natural teeth on either side of the missing tooth to be a candidate for a traditional bridge.
- Cantilever Bridge
A cantilever bridge is similar to a traditional bridge, except that it only requires one healthy tooth next to the missing tooth hole.
The fake tooth is attached to one crown and the crown is placed over the adjacent natural tooth. But because a cantilever bridge only has one crown, it’s much weaker than a traditional bridge. Dentists don’t often use cantilever bridges. If they do, they use them on front teeth instead of molars.
- Maryland Bridge
Like cantilever bridges, Maryland bridges are weaker than traditional bridges and are used to replace missing front teeth.
With a Maryland bridge, dentists use “wings” instead of crowns. These “wings” are metal flaps that attach to the backs of adjacent natural teeth to hold the bridge in place.
So, we’ve covered the basics of partial dentures vs. bridges. But, which one is the best?
Fixed Bridges vs. Removable Partial Dentures: Which Is Best?
When it comes to replacing a missing tooth, both fixed bridges and partial dentures can do the trick. But there are some things to take into consideration when deciding between bridges vs. partials.
Here are a number of things to think about regarding replacing missing teeth with a partial or bridge.
1. Removable vs. Permanent
We’ve already mentioned that the biggest difference between bridges and partials is that bridges are permanent and partials are removable. So, you’ll need to decide if you want something that’s permanently in place or needs to be removed.
With a removable partial, you’ll need to take it out each evening to clean it. A permanent bridge will still need to be cleaned, but that will be part of your daily oral hygiene routine.
In addition, a removable partial is something that you’ll need to remember to put in every morning, whereas a fixed bridge will stay in your mouth 24/7.
However, price is also something you’ll want to consider.
2. Appliance Cost
Fixed bridges and partials differ in their prices
In general, partials are less expensive than bridges. Removable partial dentures could cost anywhere from $650-$2,500, while bridges could cost around $1,500-$5,000. However, the cost will also depend on:
- Geographic location
- Your specific dentist office
- The type of bridge or partial you get
- Insurance coverage
Before moving forward with a bridge or partial, you’ll want to talk to your dentist to get a price estimate and your insurance to see if they cover the procedure.
3. How Long They Last
A third factor to consider with partial dentures vs. bridges is durability.
Partial dentures last longer on average than fixed bridges. Experts say that partials can last up to 15 years, while bridges can last anywhere from 5-7 years (or as long as 10 years).
But longevity is also a product of your lifestyle and oral hygiene habits. Taking better care of your appliance and mouth will help your bridge or partial last longer.
Ultimately, both bridges and partials are susceptible to breakages. And even if you do care for your appliance well, there will come a time for it to be replaced.
4. Personal Preference and Mouth Health
Another thing to consider is your personal preference and overall oral health. Some people might prefer removable appliances, while others might lean toward fixed appliances.
In addition, the health of your teeth and gums will also affect which option is best. You may prefer to get a removable partial denture, but your dentist may recommend a fixed bridge.
At the end of the day, you’ll want to take your dentist’s opinion into consideration above your personal preference.
Choosing the Right Dentures and Team for Your Needs
When choosing between a partial dental plate vs bridge, your dentist will consider your dental needs, lifestyle, and preferences. While there are many pros and cons to bridge vs partial dentures, ultimately, the best treatment will be the one that maintains your oral health, restores mouth function, and improves aesthetic appearance.
At Northside Dental Co., our team of skilled and experienced professionals offers a wide range of treatments to help you achieve and maintain your healthiest, brightest smile. Our dental experts will talk to you about these treatment options so you can decide on the best, most comfortable course of action for you. If you’re looking to replace missing teeth, we can help you make the best choice when it comes to a fixed bridge vs removable partial denture.
Book your appointment today. to discuss your options and find the best treatment for your needs.