Dental Jargon Explained
The following series of blogs will cover the different areas of dentistry. The aim is to simplify and explain the jargon that patients encounter in the normal course of dental visits. It is based on the Ontario Dental Association’s procedure categories and descriptions.
Artificial or false teeth and all that relates to their fabrication fall to the discipline of prosthodontics. These may be removable or fixed false teeth that are not removed on a daily basis. We will address fixed prosthodontics in the next blog.
In the removable category, we talk of complete dentures and partial dentures. Partial dentures are also sometimes referred to as removable bridges (not to be confused with fixed bridge work).
A complete denture may be for the upper arch (maxillary) or the lower (mandibular). They may be made of various materials that are patient needs specific. These include acrylic and acrylic on a cast metal base for example. The teeth may be acrylic or porcelain.
Complete dentures may be fabricated as immediate dentures, i.e. the denture(s) is made before the remaining teeth are removed and placed in the mouth immediately after the teeth are extracted.
They may also be made after all the teeth have been extracted and the ridges finish remodeling.
Occasionally, if some of the teeth are root canal treated, they can be used as overdenture abutments. This means that the few remaining teeth are reshaped to the level of the gums and the denture is designed to sit on them. This approach when possible offers some stability. This also prevents the ridges from shrinking which leads to unstable dentures which are always moving about. Attachments built into the root may be used to help retain the denture in place.
Today, implants may be used as the overdenture abutments if there are no natural roots available. Incidentally, implants were initially used to stabilize loose dentures.
Partial dentures or removable partial dentures may also be for the upper or the lower arch. They fill in spaces between teeth. Since there are many variations of missing teeth, the shape of the dentures will be dictated by where the spaces are in the arch.
On the upper arch, the palate will usually be covered partially or fully. On the lower arch we usually see free ends, i.e. there are no back teeth, or combinations of these.
They may be made of acrylic, metal frameworks or other materials akin to nylon and remain flexible. They may have clasps around the teeth to help them stay in place. The claps are of metal or nylon like materials.
Partial dentures, like complete dentures, may be made as immediate dentures or after the ridges have slowed their remodeling.
As mention, implants are now used to retain full and partial dentures. The number and method of retention depends on multiple factors from bone quality, the space between the upper and lower jaws and the health of the jaw joints (temporomandubular joints)
Adjustments, repairs, additions
All dentures are like new shoes and need breaking in, hence the adjustments. As the dentures are used and endure a lot of wear and tear, they will need ongoing adjustments and repairs. In this regard they are similar to cars – regular oil, filter and lubes!
If more teeth are lost, they might be added to the dentures. Afterwards, these additions will need adjustments.
Replication / provisional
If one has more complicated dental needs the period between starting and the final prosthetic may be quite long. In these cases provisional dentures are made to bridge the gap as it were.
Occasionally the existing denture may be in poor shape, but the framework is usable. Replication is the process than involves replicating a new denture on the old framework.
Relining / rebasing / remake
Alternatively, the denture may be good but has loosened up and not as secure as it was. This is when a reline is done by adding material to the tissue side of the denture. This prolongs the life of the denture.
If the denture teeth are in usable condition, but the base is not, then teeth will be kept as a new base is replicated.
In the following blog we will cover the world of fixed prosthodontics.