Classification and Components of Removable Partial Dentures

jdand Dentures, Removable Partial Dentures

Removable partial dentures can replace one or more missing teeth. They have a realistic appearance, imitating natural teeth, and are generally less expensive and invasive than other tooth replacement options. This makes them the perfect transitional choice between more extensive periodontal treatments and an excellent aesthetic measure for missing teeth.

A removable partial denture restores the appearance of your smile. If you’ve lost a tooth and want to learn about your options, keep reading to learn how removable partial dentures work and whether they’re the right option for you.

The Problem of Missing Teeth

Your mouth’s health is dependent upon many factors. Good oral hygiene practices, lifestyle choices, and regular dental visits contribute to maintaining good oral health. However, many people may not know about the impact of missing teeth.

People routinely have their wisdom teeth removed, which may confuse people about the importance of replacing any missing teeth. Yet, wisdom teeth are different from the others and can be removed without impacting your oral health or smile.

This isn’t the same for the other teeth in your mouth. When you don’t replace missing teeth, you can experience jawbone loss, tooth misalignment, headaches, difficulty chewing, bite irregularities, and even alter your facial features. By neglecting the proper treatment for a missing tooth, you’re at risk of developing several significant issues.

Whenever you lose a tooth, your mouth’s dental structure’s integrity is compromised and can weaken over time. Your mouth is designed for consistent pressure, which occurs with normal chewing, which helps keep the soft tissue and deeper oral structure of your mouth healthy.

Bone loss is a significant consequence of missing teeth. When empty gum space isn’t filled, especially when multiple teeth are missing, the jawbone begins to deteriorate and is reabsorbed in that area. Chewing provides the required stimulation to keep the entire jawbone healthy, including the surrounding teeth.

Addressing tooth loss is imperative for your overall oral health. If you have multiple missing teeth, removable partial dentures are a fantastic option for improving your dental health and achieving a beautiful smile.

Nature of Removable Partial Denture

The Nature of Removable Partial Dentures

Dentures come in two forms: complete and partial. A complete denture is a full-coverage prosthetic device that stands-in for an entire dental arch, whereas a removable partial denture replaces several missing teeth at once.

Unlike a complete denture, a removable partial denture fills in specific gaps in the mouth, not the entire mouth.

Removable partial dentures, also known as RPDs, are made to look like and imitate your natural teeth. Made from imitation replacement teeth and attached to a gum-colored plastic base, this denture base will fit snugly against your gum line and cover any empty space with imitation teeth, sitting in the mouth like a retainer tray.

To keep the RPD in place, the fixture attaches to healthy surrounding teeth, also known as abutment teeth, via metal or plastic clasps. These clasps will often be made from metal such as titanium or chrome and will easily secure to the surrounding teeth for a secure fit. These clasps are vital to an RPD’s efficiency, and poorly fitted clasps could damage the remaining teeth and the gums.

Each RPD is customized to the patient. Dr. Owens will consider various factors, assess your dental profile, and use specific classifications to make the best choice for you.

The Purpose of RPDs

Removable Partial Dentures are exclusively used as a solution for missing teeth, though the circumstances which call for an RPD can vary. The reason for this variation is simple: tooth loss can occur for a variety of reasons.

Some people may receive an RPD as part of a tooth extraction, as a temporary measure, or before undergoing further oral procedures. Depending on the situation, an RPD can have an aesthetic purpose, a functional one, or a combination of the two.

Removable Partial Dentures are also known as ‘flippers’ because they are so lightweight, it’s easy to ‘flip’ them out of the mouth when you need to remove them. These dental prosthetics are designed in this way because they’re primarily intended for transitional use.

Your dentist may recommend an RPD as an ongoing dental fixture. However, this is not common since other procedures, like dental implants or a permanent bridge, are more effective at replacing missing teeth and provide more long-term oral health benefits. Often, patients receive an RPD while they prepare for a more permanent option.

Understanding Classification

Your dentist will likely use the Kennedy Classification, one of the most commonly used classification systems for partial denture design, to ensure you receive the best RPD for your needs. Dr. Edward Kennedy invented this system in the 1920s and based it upon the most common partial denture profiles. Each classification highlights a specific kind of person with a particular dental profile.

Kennedy Class I

These RPDs are designed for people who have an edentulous posterior, meaning they are missing some or all the teeth in the back of their mouth on both sides. This requires an RPD to replace the missing posterior teeth and attaches with a clasp to the remaining anterior teeth.

Kennedy Class II

Class II partial dentures are best for those who have one-sided, posterior teeth missing. The suitable partial denture attaches to teeth toward the front of the mouth and the remaining teeth on the one side. Both Class I and II involve tooth loss toward the back of the mouth and depend on the front teeth for suitable placement.

Kennedy Class III

The third class of partial dentures is for partially edentulous people who have missing teeth with surrounding teeth behind and in front of it. However, Class III can only attach to teeth, not tissue or gum, like the other denture classification profiles. This difference makes Kennedy Class III the most secure option out of all the designs.

Kennedy Class IV

Class IV is the least common classification and involves only one edentulous area, unlike the previous three classifications.

This Kennedy system helps simplify the entire classification process since each class utilizes specific features and components which work for that kind of mouth. Not all partial denture components are necessary for each class, meaning that your dentist will choose the best fit for your mouth.

Going Into The Details

Because each classification includes different features, each will possess unique details to ensure the removable partial denture fits securely and is personalized to the patient’s mouth.

Generally speaking, any removable partial denture includes the following components: the saddle, direct retainers, indirect retainers, connectors, and incisal and occlusal rests. Each of these components helps the denture work efficiently within the mouth.

The Saddle

The saddle, or base, features the artificial teeth, which will be placed over the partially edentulous area, which dentists call the saddle area. The teeth or the mouth tissue may support these saddles. If the edentulous area, an area of missing teeth, doesn’t have a terminal tooth to attach to then, this base can be tailored, and the dentist may use a distal extensions base instead.


Direct retainers depend on abutment teeth to ensure a secure fit to the gum tissue. These can include clasps or other precision attachments. Each clasp will feature a reciprocal arm, retentive arm, and occlusal rest, which work together to secure the removable partial denture to the teeth.

However, there are several clasps to choose from, with each meant to suit a particular scenario. There are wrought clasps, infrabulge clasps (also known as a bar clasp,) and cast circumferential clasps (suprabulge clasps.) In contrast, the indirect retainers use minor connectors and rests to stabilize the denture saddle within the mouth.


Connectors for a removable partial denture come in both major and minor forms. The major connector joins one part of the arch to the other opposing side and is the unit upon which all the other components are either directly or indirectly connected.

There are six major connector types for the lower portion of the mouth: palatal bar, palatal strap, palatal plate, U-shaped, complete palatal coverage, and anteroposterior designs. Similarly, the upper portion of the mouth can feature six major connector designs: lingual bar, lingual bar with an indirect retainer, lingual plate, sublingual bar, cingulum bar, or labial bar/plate. On the other hand, the minor connector links the major connector to other denture components, such as clasps and occlusal rests.

Occlusal Rests

An occlusal rest is a rigid extension in the denture form, placed in rest seats to help support the partial denture’s overall structure. Any denture component which provides vertical support is called a rest, and any prepared abutment surface made to receive the rest is known as a rest seat.

What Does This Mean For Me?

Now we’ve covered all the technical information, we can explore what this will mean for you. Removable partial dentures are not one-size-fits-all. Although they feature similar underlying components, they use those components to precisely fit the partial denture to your mouth.

So if you suffer from missing teeth and limited finances but still want to make the best choice for your health and your situation, what’s the best option?

It’s hard to know the best choice without the help of an expert. To make the best decision for you, you’ll need a professional’s guidance to get all the information you need. Consulting with a dental professional ensures you receive the correct information tailored to your requirements.

When you visit your dentist, they’ll tell you the type of removable partial denture suitable for your mouth and explain the optimal long-term treatment based on your needs. Your dentist will also help you understand how to care for your remaining teeth, to prevent further tooth loss.

Benefits and Disadvantages

Before you visit your dentist, it’s useful to know the pros and cons of your situation. This can help you have an educated discussion with the dentist, equip you to ask informed questions, and ultimately allow you to have the best appointment possible.

Like most dental procedures, removable partial dentures come with advantages and disadvantages. Overall, when a patient has multiple missing teeth, removable partial dentures cost less money and require far less invasive treatment to be fitted than other options. Depending on your teeth’s condition, your dentist may be able to tailor the dentures over time to include additional teeth. This makes RPDs an attractive option for patients suffering from ongoing tooth loss.

However, RPDs can take time to get used to and can affect how you speak. They also require more maintenance than other options for tooth loss replacement. You’ll need to regularly and thoroughly clean your RPD to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent infections.

If you have questions about any of these disadvantages, consider consulting with your dentist about alternative long-term procedures.

Removable partial dentures

Get the Right Treatment For You

Because of the many options available, choosing the best form of treatment for your dental situation can be overwhelming. If you’re dealing with missing teeth, correct treatment is imperative for your long-term oral health. Don’t wait to get the help you need.

Owens Cosmetic and Family Dentistry is committed to giving you your dream smile. Discover your options today by arranging an appointment to discuss your situation with one of our experienced dental staff members. Call (248) 626-0772 to learn more about how to restore your oral health and make your dream smile a reality.

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