Unlike full dentures, partial dentures are often made at least partially out of metal. This gives them the durability to stand up in situations where they are in and among natural teeth. But these metal dentures have come with a number of significant problems. This makes them unpopular with wearers and dentists alike.

Now denture manufacturing is taking a new direction with 3D printing. This promises to correct some of the problems related to denture manufacturing, but will it be enough to keep partial dentures relevant in the future? It’s hard to say.

A man’s hand touches a 3-d model of a smaller hand being printed

Heavy Metal Meets High Tech

With partial dentures, metal is often used as the support structure to give the strength and durability necessary to fulfill the role of interacting with natural teeth that are secured in the bone. These dentures are designed around casts of the remaining teeth and the rest of the mouth. The design is then turned into metal using traditional lost-wax casting techniques.

In recent years, some parts of the flow have modernized . Digital scans and CAD have allowed for partial dentures to be designed with ever-increasing accuracy. But this is only part of the process. Those accurate designs need to be turned into solid metal, which was still being done with the same lost-wax casting techniques, which are nearly 6000 years old.

This technique is often called precision casting, but it does have its limits in terms of accuracy. And when it comes to something you put in your mouth and wear all day, even small deviations can be troublesome. As a result, the industry sees high numbers of requests for remakes, perhaps as much as 20%. That’s lost time, inconvenience, and cost for dentists, labs, and patients.

People in the industry hope that they can improve the situation using 3D printing or metal additive manufacturing, as its known. In theory, this technique will allow the lab-made dentures to more accurately reflect the digital designs so that there will be fewer remakes and an overall faster process from start to finish.

What Is the Future Like for Partial Dentures?

However, there remains the question about whether there will be much call for partial dentures in the future. This question is even more acute for partial dentures than for the future of full dentures. With fewer people becoming completely edentulous, the demand for partial dentures might show less of a reduction than the demand for full dentures.

But partial dentures compete more directly with dental implants. Partial implant dentures (also called implant bridges) are more affordable than full implant dentures, and their better performance over removable dentures makes them much more desirable. And even if partial dentures remain in demand, innovations in more flexible and comfortable partial dentures may make metal partials a thing of the past, too.

Get the Best Dentures Today

Of course, the future is always uncertain. We are always looking ahead and always identifying the key trends in the industry so we can be prepared to utilize them when they become available.

That’s why we feel confident when we say that we are offering the best dentures available today. To learn more about the dentures we offer, please call (803) 781-9090 today for an appointment with a Columbia, SC denture dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.