How long do removable partial dentures last? | How about complete (full) dentures?
While having a complete (full) or removable partial denture (aka “partial plate”) made can be a very cost-effective way to replace multiple missing teeth, before spending money for one you might want to have an idea of how long it should last. This page provides an answer to that question.
Table of contents.
- A) Removable partial denture longevity.
- B) Full/complete denture longevity.
- C) Denture reline longevity. (Chairside vs. laboratory technique. Full or partial appliance.)
- D) Denture rebase longevity. (Full or partial appliance.)
A) Partial denture longevity (by prosthesis type).
As you might expect, the specific materials that are used to fabricate an appliance will play an important role in how long it can be expected to last. And for that reason, we’ve divided the information on this page into the following categories: 1) cast-metal partials, 2) acrylic partials and 3) flexible acrylic partials.
FYI – What are removable partial dentures (partial plates)?
A partial is a type of dental prosthesis that replaces one or more missing teeth on a dental arch (upper or lower jaw) on which some natural teeth still remain. (This is in contrast to a complete denture, which is an appliance that replaces all of its arch’s teeth.)
Based on the materials from which they’re constructed, there are three general types of partial dentures: 1) cast metal and plastic, 2) plastic and wire, and 3) all-plastic. As the remainder of this page explains, each type has its own expected longevity.
1) Cast partial dentures –
These appliances consist of an extensive cast-metal framework, on which plastic simulated gum tissue and teeth are then attached.
- Aspects of the framework lie embedded within the plastic portions of the appliance, so to give them strength.
- The cast framework is designed with clasps that grasp around selected natural teeth so to anchor the appliance.
Overall, this is generally considered to be the preferred type of removable partial denture.
Factors affecting cast partial longevity.
- The durability of the plastic portions of a cast partial will affect its length of service. Fortunately, repair or replacement of these plastic components (flanges, saddles, or teeth) is possible and commonplace.
- The way the clasps of a cast-metal partial grasp around their natural teeth is very precise (more so than with any other type of partial). And this means that how long an appliance will last is very dependent upon how well this relationship is maintained.
Any factor that alters it (tooth loss, tooth decay, placing new or replacement dental restorations) can seriously compromise the partial’s ability to provide service. Also, clasp damage or breakage frequently cannot be satisfactorily repaired.
- As with all types of dentures, the fit of a partial over its underlying jawbone will tend to change over time (although with some appliance designs this may be a less critical factor than with others). Performing a reline can typically renew this fit and therefore extend the life of the prosthesis.
► How long can you expect a cast partial to last? – Projections / Statistics
2) Acrylic partial dentures –
With this type of partial, the bulk of the appliance consists of plastic simulated gum tissue and teeth. Depending on its purpose and design, it may or may not have wrought-wire clasps (as opposed to cast-metal ones) that grasp around selected teeth so to help anchor it in place.
Generally speaking, this is considered to be a less desirable, or just temporary, alternative to a cast partial.
Factors affecting acrylic partial longevity.
- As compared to cast-metal ones, the tooth-clasp relationship of wrought-wire clasps is less precise (a disadvantage). However, the ease with which they can be adjusted makes it easier to maintain a satisfactory appliance fit over the long term (like in the case where a filling has had to be replaced).
- Just like with other types of prostheses, the durability of the plastics involved can be a limiting factor. Since there is no underlying metal framework, a cast partial could be considered to be the stronger alternative.
- Damaged, lost, or broken plastic components can typically be replaced, often fairly easily. And if needed, additional teeth and clasps can frequently be added too. Also, acrylic partials can be relined. All of these possibilities can help to extend the life span of an existing appliance.
- It must be stated that generally speaking acrylic partials tend to be more damaging to natural teeth (possibly substantially so) than cast partials, thus shortening the appliance’s effective lifespan due to tooth loss (see below).
► How long can you expect an acrylic partial denture to last? – Projections / Statistics
3) Flexible acrylic partials (Valplast®)
This type of appliance is made entirely out of a special plastic whose resilient, flexible nature allows that it can even be fashioned into tooth clasps for the partial. Some of the brand names associated with flexible-acrylic partials are Valplast®, Duraflex®, and tcs®.
Generally speaking, flexible acrylic partials can be considered to be a more esthetic, possibly more comfortable to wear, version of standard acrylic ones.
Factors affecting flexible acrylic partial longevity.
- Just as with other types of partials, the durability of the plastic components of a flexible partial (base, clasps, teeth) will affect its length of service.
Relining, or the repair or replacement of plastic components (breakage, tooth loss, etc…), is possible, although not as routine a process as with standard non-flexible acrylics (see below).
- Just like with standard acrylic appliances, flexible partials tend to cause damage to neighboring natural teeth over the long term.
► How long can you expect a Valplast® partial denture to last? – Projections / Statistics
Statistics about how long removable partial dentures can last.
The following conclusions and estimates about partial longevity are drawn from published dental literature and research.
1) Cast partial dentures.
How long can they last?
Primary reasons for cast partial failure.
Beyond those general issues discussed below (plastic component breakage, tooth loss, general wear and tear, fit changes), cast partials have some unique concerns that can affect how long they will last.
a) Complications with adjacent natural teeth –
- Any part of a partial denture (of any kind) that lies against natural teeth creates a semi-protected haven for dental plaque accumulation.
If the partial is not taken out regularly and this plaque removed, the formation of tooth decay is a distinct possibility. If it occurs, filling placement or possibly even tooth extraction will be required.
- A generally positive factor associated with wearing a cast partial is that it’s able to pass the chewing forces directed onto it onto the teeth on which it clasps and rests. (This design helps to prevent the gum recession problem discussed below.)
However, exposure to these forces can result in tooth or dental restoration damage. If either occurs, a new dental restoration will need to be placed.
Note: Tooth loss, or any event that changes the shape of a tooth that a cast partial clasps onto (like when a new dental restoration is placed), has the potential to significantly alter its fit, possibly even making it unwearable.
- The Vermeulen study mentioned above determined that at 5 years 60% of cast-metal cases required some type of repair of adjacent natural teeth, and at 10 years 80%.
- Frank quizzed patients who had had new mandibular (lower) cast partials placed within the last 5 years. A quarter of respondents reported that their appliance had caused a problem with their natural teeth.
b) Cast partial breakage –
While the cast metal framework of this type of partial gives it greater strength than its acrylic counterparts discussed below, metal fracture is possible.
Vermeulen determined a failure rate of 10 to 20% at 5 years, and 27 to 44% at 10 years, due to metal framework breakage.
c) What should you expect?
A literature review by Tong concluded that the most likely types of cast partial complications are:
- Clasp failure – Unlike wire clasps on acrylic partials, if a cast-metal clasp breaks it likely cannot be repaired satisfactorily.
- Artificial tooth loss – Typically an easy repair.
- Changes with natural teeth – The need for cavity repair or treatment for gum disease may create a situation that significantly affects the fit or function of the appliance. This implies that practicing proper oral home care is an important factor in cast partial survival.
▲ Section references – Vermeulen, Tong
- Loss of a natural tooth supporting the partial.
- Non-repairable fracture of the partial’s metal framework.
2) Acrylic partial dentures.
How long can they last?
- A paper by Schwass cites a publication by Walmsley (2003) that suggests that acrylic partials have an expected life span of only 6 to 12 months.
- However, the Schwass paper itself reports anecdotally that a time frame of up to 5 years might be expected for “optimal function.”
Generally speaking, it seems that this type of appliance is best suited to interim or transitional service. In terms of clinical longevity (survival of the appliance and associated natural teeth), it’s likely that most dentists would consider a cast partial to make the superior choice.
Primary reasons for acrylic partial failure.
- Appliance breakage – Unlike cast partial dentures, acrylic ones have no internal metal framework. Over time, breakage is likely to occur in areas where circumstances dictate that the partial must be thin or narrow.
Just like with complete dentures, repair can’t be expected to restore the appliance to its original full strength. Re-fracturing in the repaired location is not uncommon.
- Damage to natural teeth – Unlike cast partials whose design allows them to transfer a large degree of chewing forces onto the patient’s natural teeth, acrylic ones tend to direct forces onto gum tissue.
Over time, this tends to cause gum line recession (“gum stripping”) on the adjacent natural teeth, quite possibly leading to their eventual loss. This complication is a major advantage of choosing a cast partial and a primary reason not to choose an acrylic one.
- The additional issues discussed above for complete dentures (general wear and tear, tooth loss, fit changes, periodic need for a reline) apply to acrylic partials too.
3) Flexible acrylic partial dentures (Valplast®, Duraflex®, tcs®).
How long can they last?
We couldn’t locate a source that gave an estimate of how long flexible acrylic partials last. Schwass states that they should not be considered suitable for long-term wear.
In general terms, a study by Takabayashi reported that flexible dental acrylics (including Valplast®) showed good strength and elasticity characteristics, which led to the conclusion that they offered the expectation of reasonable appliance longevity.
Our conjecture would be that their expected usefulness likely lies in the same order as standard acrylic partials (discussed above).
Primary reasons for flexible acrylic partial failure.
- Takabayashi found that flexible acrylics (including Valplast®) tended to pick up staining from highly colored foods more so than conventional acrylics. Staining could limit the acceptable life span of an appliance.
- As discussed with standard acrylic partials above, the problem of gum stripping (recession) around adjacent natural teeth tends to occur with flexible plastics too (Schwass). This can lead to tooth loss, resulting in an inability to continue wearing the prosthesis.
- The additional issues discussed below (general wear and tear, fit changes) will apply to flexible acrylic partials too.
While not necessarily a longevity issue, flexible acrylics differ from standard dental ones. And that means that the repair options possible with a flexible partial may be more limited.
General complications affecting longevity.
All types of partial dentures share some similar characteristics in their construction and therefore also tend to experience many of the same types of failures. The list below describes the types of problems that can occur. (As you’ll find if you also read the “complete” denture section of this page, many of these same issues crop up for them as well.)
a) Lost teeth / Plastic breakage
A study by Darbar determined that the most frequently experienced type of denture damage was tooth loss (33% of all repairs for full and partial appliances combined), followed by denture base fracture (damage to the pink plastic portion of a prosthesis).
Making a repair, and therefore extending the life span of a damaged partial, is frequently possible and even commonplace.
How long can a repair last?
Minor repairs, like replacing a single tooth, can be quite successful. However at the other extreme, while it may be possible to patch large cracks or reattach large sections that have broken off, doing so is unlikely to restore the partial to its original strength.
b) General wear and tear.
It’s the nature of the materials from which partials are made that ultimately the appliance will have deteriorated to the point where it is no longer functionally and/or esthetically acceptable. This might include tooth wear, or denture base deterioration and staining.
c) Natural jaw changes.
It’s normal and natural that the size and shape of the jawbone on which a partial rests will change over time. But since the shape of an appliance’s plastic does not change, its fit will no longer be ideal. The degree to which this is a problem will depend on the design of the partial (for instance, the number of missing teeth and their location).
In many cases, a reline or rebase procedure may be able to restore the appliance to acceptable standards and therefore extend its service.
B) How long do complete (full) dentures last?
FYI – What is a complete/full denture?
This type of appliance replaces all of a patient’s teeth on one “arch” (upper or lower jaw).
A complete denture consists of a plastic base that simulates gum tissue. Embedded in this base are artificial teeth.
- Nowadays, plastic teeth are the most commonly used type. In decades past, porcelain ones were sometimes used instead.
- While not especially common, some aspects/portions of a complete denture’s base may be made out of metal.
This option might be chosen so the appliance is more fracture-resistant. Or as a way of allowing the denture’s base to be thinner (a factor that might remedy some speech problems).
Factors that affect full denture longevity.
a) Denture strength.
The strength of the materials from which a denture is made can be a factor in how long it will last. (This point might be a consideration in deciding between a “premium” vs. “economy” denture.)
- Repairing appliance damage (such as denture base fracture or reattaching lost teeth) is frequently possible and doing so is commonplace.
- As a shortcoming, repairs typically don’t offer the same level of strength as a prosthesis’s original materials.
So in cases where the needed repair is extensive or has previously failed, appliance replacement, or rebasing, may offer the best (most predictable, lasting) solution.
b) Denture wear.
The durability of the materials from which a denture is made can also affect its longevity. (Again, possibly a point that should be considered when choosing between “premium” vs. “economy” dentures.)
- As would be expected, plastic portions (teeth, denture base materials) will tend to wear over time. But so can porcelain teeth.
- Replacement or repair of the worn aspects of an appliance may be possible. But denture wear frequently coincides with gradual changes that involve the patient’s jaws, jaw joints, ridge height, and facial appearance.
Electing to replace the entire prosthesis often allows the dentist the latitude they need to create an outcome that restores, corrects, improves, or adapts to the patient’s changed (now current) situation.
c) Denture fit.
The fit of the “tissue side” of a denture’s base (the part that rests directly on the jaws) is an important factor in appliance stability, retention, comfort, and function. And this characteristically does change over time, and therefore plays a role in limiting an appliance’s longevity.
- Performing a reline (replacing the plastic that directly rests on gum tissue) can renew this fit and thus extend the life span of a prosthesis.
- If the denture has already provided extensive service, replacing it altogether may make a better plan.
Statistics about how long complete dentures can last.
How long can full dentures last?
- A dental literature review by Schwass states that it’s “generally accepted” that complete dentures can last between 5 and 10 years. However, it also reports that many patients wear their appliances for far longer.
- Murtomaa polled 328 denture wearers. 45% of the upper and 40% of the lower appliances being worn by this group were over 10 years old.
Primary reasons for complete/full denture failure.
a) Damage / Breakage
- The most frequently occurring types of denture damage are tooth loss (33% of all repairs for full and partial appliances combined) and denture base fracture (29% of all laboratory repairs involved cracked or broken full upper dentures) (Darbar).
- Vallittu found that roughly half of all denture repairs performed by dental laboratories involved complete upper dentures.
- Shakya reported that complete upper dentures tend to fracture twice as often as lower ones. The primary causes either being plastic fatigue (stress created from use) or impact (dropping).
How long do denture repairs last?
- The repair of a significant failure (such as a large crack or a denture breaking into two) can’t be expected to restore an appliance to its original strength. Re-fracture frequently occurs where the repair and original plastics join (ElHadiry).
In this type of situation, a dentist may advise that the appliance needs to be rebased or else worn as a transitional prosthesis until a replacement can be made.
- Needed minor repairs (such as reattaching an individual tooth that has debonded) can be expected to be serviceable for an extended period of time.
Some of the difficulties associated with this type of repair can be that the color of the new plastic used for the mend may not perfectly match that of the denture base, or may pick up stains over time. Or, if a tooth has been lost, its replacement may not be a perfect color match.
b) General wear and tear.
It’s common that due to years of use that a denture will have finally reached a point where it has deteriorated enough that it’s no longer functionally or esthetically acceptable. This deterioration might include tooth wear or denture base wear, deterioration, or staining.
While we don’t have any specific statistics to share as to how long this might take, our Schwass reference mentioned above seems to put the average life span of a denture on the order of 5 to 10 years.
▲ Section references – Schwass
c) Natural jawbone changes.
Another scenario that frequently takes place is one where due to normal natural processes, the patient’s jawbone (shape, size) has changed enough (a process termed “remodeling”) that the fit and dimensions of its denture (an object that still retains its original shape) are no longer suitable.
This is an expected change, although the rate at which it occurs will vary with each patient.
- It may take place in just a few to several months if the person’s teeth have recently been extracted.
- In cases where the patient’s teeth were extracted several years ago, a few years may elapse before substantial changes have occurred.
In either case, a reline or rebase procedure may be able to restore the denture to acceptable standards.
C) Denture reline and rebase longevity.
Relining or rebasing a denture (full or partial) provides a method by which a dentist can extend the lifespan of some appliances by correcting specific types of deficiencies that have developed.
1) Denture relining.
Relining is the process that a dentist uses to resurface the “tissue side” (inside) of an ill-fitting complete or partial denture. Doing so provides a way of restoring the fit of an appliance that is otherwise still in acceptable condition.
There are two methods that can be used to reline a denture.
- Chairside relines – With this technique the dentist performs all of the resurfacing work, start to finish, during their patient’s scheduled appointment.
- Laboratory relines – This is a two-appointment process (with both possibly occurring during the same day) where an impression is taken in the patient’s denture, which is then sent to a dental laboratory where it is resurfaced.
How long can a reline last?
a) Laboratory procedures.
The type of plastic placed via a laboratory process is somewhat similar to the kind used for initial appliance construction.
And as such, it would be our conjecture that a laboratory reline should last for some years (in terms of resistance to deterioration, debonding from the denture, staining), although we couldn’t find a reference to cite in regard to this matter.
b) Chairside procedures.
In comparison, the types of hard-setting plastics used with chairside processes are known to be less durable and stain-resistant than their laboratory-placed counterparts.
- Matsumura evaluated the performance of a chairside hard reline material and determined that in 90% of cases in which it had been used, at one year its condition could still be rated “clinically ideal.”
- Haywood compared the performance of 3 hard-setting chairside products at 3, 6, and 12-month intervals. At one-year evaluations (but not at the previous 3 and 6-month checks), some dentures showed “severe loss of reline materials.”
2) Denture rebasing.
A rebase is similar to a reline. But in this case, a much greater portion of the denture’s (complete or partial) base (the plastic part that simulates gum tissue) is replaced (instead of just the appliance’s inner surface as with a reline).
Rebasing, in comparison to relining, offers a means by which an appliance’s effective life span can be extended via the correction of a much wider range of deficiencies. This includes fit, vertical dimension (height of the teeth of the denture), facial appearance (lip support), and denture strength (entirely replacing areas where the denture had previously fractured).
How long can a rebase last?
We couldn’t find a reference that gave an estimate about how long a rebase might last. But as mentioned above, this is a laboratory process and as such the type of plastic used should provide service fairly similar to the plastic materials used in the denture’s original construction.
Page references sources:
Darbar UR, et al. Denture fracture–a survey.
Elhadiry SS, et al. Effect of cavity preparation on the flexural strengths of acrylic resin repairs.
Frank RP, et al. Treatment outcomes with mandibular removable partial dentures: a population-based study of patient satisfaction.
Matsumura H, et al. Clinical evaluation of a chemically cured hard denture relining material.
Murtomaa H, et al. Age and maintenance of removable dentures in Finland.
Schwass DR, et al. How long will it last? The expected longevity of prosthodontic and restorative treatment.
Shakya P, et al. Management Of Fracture Prone In Maxillary Complete Denture – A Clinical Report.
Takabayashi Y. Characteristics of denture thermoplastic resins for non-metal clasp dentures.
Tong N, et al. Failure of Removable Dental Prostheses: An Evidence-Based Review.
Vallittu PK, et al. Evaluation of damage to removable dentures in two cities in Finland.
Vermeulen AH, et al. Ten-year evaluation of removable partial dentures: survival rates based on retreatment, not wearing and replacement.
All reference sources for topic Complete and Partial Dentures.