Different dentures are held in by different methods and this is ones of the greatest influences over how comfortable the dentures are and how helpful they are to chewing.
Full and partial acrylic dentures
First let’s clarify the terms full and partial dentures. If you’ve lost all your teeth from the top/bottom or both jaws then the denture will replace all your teeth without the need for any gaps for your own teeth to poke through.
We call this a full denture. However, if you still got some good teeth of your own, the denture is made around these teeth (it has gaps to let them through) and that’s called a partial denture.
Full dentures rest directly on the gum, so they don’t have anything to physically grip. Instead they rely on suction to hold them in place; very much like how a wet sheet of thin plastic can stick to a window, plus the user needs to learn to actively hold them in place with mouth muscles when eating.
When the denture is a partial denture, then the holes that are needed to let the teeth through eliminate any possibility of getting suction.
In lieu, in an acrylic partial denture small wire clips are bent around the teeth to generate some grip. With that said these wires are pretty flexible and don’t provide a lot of help in holding up the denture.
There is still a lot of active muscle holding that’s required from the user.
So acrylic dentures are like shoes, well in this case thongs; while they generally stay in place they can move around and sometimes get debris get underneath them.
You need to learn to hold them in place and if you kick hard enough you can make them come off. Some people can run a marathon in their flip-flops but it takes a lot of practice to learn.
Cobalt chrome partial dentures
If you are looking for a comfortable and secure partial denture then a cobalt chrome based denture gives great return on investment.
In these dentures the main body of the denture as well as the clips that go onto the natural teeth are made from a cast metal alloy.
As a result it is less bulky than acrylic dentures (as metal is strong enough even when thin) and the retentive clips are precision customized to every tooth as well as more rigid.
The result is a very stable denture from the grip that can be generated onto the natural teeth. However, this means that enough strong, healthy natural teeth are needed.
These dentures are like running shoes, very comfortable and perform well. They will never fall out on their own, but if you encounter hard terrain you may still find that you sense a bit of movement and a little bit debris can get under them.
These are basically a further evolution of the cobalt chrome dentures we already discussed.
Sometimes, the teeth that we want to use to hold the denture don’t have a suitable shape or we don’t want to have the metal clips of the denture showing on front teeth.
To overcome this, the teeth are fitted with a permanent fixed attachment which the denture clip onto.
It works similar to a tow bar and a tow hitch on a car. These kind of dentures are the hiking boots of dentures; they lock in very strongly and allow you to chew pretty much anything.
Similarly these dentures can be constructed over 2-4 implants in a scenario where the user has no teeth of their own, but a full denture has not been functioning well.