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Types of Dentures: Complete, Partial, and Flipper

Updated on June 16, 2012

Dentures are used to replace missing teeth. They may be secured in the mouth with the help of remaining natural teeth, dental implants, or soft tissue. The different types of dentures are used depending on how many teeth need to be replaced, how long the person can wait for dentures, and the patient's budget. Complete dentures, partial dentures, and flipper teeth are the types of dentures.

Complete Dentures

Complete dentures are sometimes called full dentures. These dentures are used to replace all or almost all the teeth in the mouth. In some cases, the person has one or more molars that are used to anchor the dentures. Some people who do not have any natural teeth will opt to have dental implants for molars so that the dentures will fit more securely.

A common concern for complete dentures is the fit. After the teeth are extracted, the gums are swollen. The swollen gums make an accurate fitting of dentures impossible. Dentists may recommend having the dentures made in advance so that the person does not have to live without teeth while the swelling subsides.

However, the gums may shrink and there may even be some bone loss after teeth are extracted. This could mean that the denture that was made in advance may no longer fit after the mouth is healed. An alternative may be to buy cheap dentures like flipper teeth to wear immediately after the teeth have been extracted and replace them with complete dentures after the mouth is completely healed. The patient should discuss these options with the dentist.

Uses for Complete Dentures:

  • Person is missing all of their teeth
  • Any remaining teeth are molars or in bad condition and need to be extracted or pulled

Partial Dentures

Partial dentures are used when there are some missing teeth, but the person still has natural teeth in the mouth. The partial dentures have porcelain false teeth that fill the gaps left by missing teeth. The false teeth are secured to an acrylic resin base. The base may have a metal framework for added strength. The partial denture may be secured in the mouth with metal clips that fit tightly against some of the person's teeth.

Uses for Partial Dentures:

  • When missing some teeth but has remaining natural teeth
  • Remaining teeth are at least in good enough condition to support the denture

Flipper Teeth

The cheapest type of dentures is the flipper teeth. These are sometimes called flexible partial dentures. This flexibility can make the denture more comfortable and easier to adjust to wearing. The flipper teeth are made as cheap dentures and typically are not as durable as other types of dentures. Some people use dental flippers while waiting to get a permanent tooth replacement like a dental implant or bridge.

Some types of flipper teeth are made to fit over the person's teeth and hide imperfections like chips or stains. These dental flippers may be considered removable veneers. The dental flippers can be constructed to provide several cosmetic improvements like filling in gaps from missing teeth, hiding tooth imperfections, and making the teeth look straighter.

Uses for Flipper Teeth:

  • Cheap alternative to dentures due to a lack of insurance coverage or money
  • Athletes of contact sports who need a fast and temporary tooth replacement
  • Children who are too young for permanent tooth replacement methods
  • Children in the entertainment or modeling industry who need to hide missing baby teeth
  • To hide stained, chipped, or crooked teeth


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