A dental prosthesis (or denture) is a tool to replace one or more missing teeth. Depending on whether or not it can be fitted and removed by the patient, the dental prosthesis is described as removable or non-removable.
The most important requirement for a prosthesis is that it is not harmful to the health of the patient. Performing a prosthesis is primarily a precise medical act, even though some of the technical tasks are entrusted to laboratory technicians.
The manufacture of a dental prosthesis is complex, in the dental practice as well as in the laboratory.
Many steps are required to optimize the result, which depends on numerous anatomical, cosmetic, morphological and technical compromises.
Each removable denture has a more or less elaborate base, usually made of acrylic resin that imitates the gums and serves as a support for artificial teeth; these are made of porcelain or resin. A distinction is made between a complete removable denture and a partial removable denture.
A full removable denture replaces all teeth in an arch, as well as the supporting tissue (bone and gums). The retention is based on the “suction cup” principle; the oral mucosa acts as a rubber seal.
A removable partial denture consists of either a full resin base to support the dentures, a full resin base to support the dentures, or a cobalt-chrome or titanium metal frame with acrylic saddles to support the replacement teeth. The retention of this prosthesis is ensured by locks that are placed on natural teeth, possibly crowned.
The fixed or non-removable prosthesis may be a single crown that replaces all or part of an eroded tooth or molar, or a bridge that replaces one or more missing teeth by resting on adjacent, crowned teeth. The bridge replaces one or more missing teeth by leaning on the crowned teeth.
The fixing is done by mechanical locking, which is always reinforced and made saliva-tight by sealing or gluing.
In some clinical situations one or more implants can replace the natural roots; the fixation of the prosthetic elements is then ensured by screws or by sealing on a metal stump. The resemblance to natural teeth is often very great.