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Partial or Full Upper Denture?



Junior member
Mar 6, 2008
Hello. I have been to 3 dentists (one an oral surgeon) & have been advised to have some teeth removed & get immediate denture(s). All 3 "denture-experienced" dentists agree that I should get a partial denture on the bottom. However, they are not in agreement regarding the top.

I am a 40 year-old dental phobic female & have 8 upper teeth remaining. Two of the dentists (including the oral surgeon) advised to have all remaining upper teeth extracted & get an immediate full denture (with a complete down the road).

The dentist I have chosen (both highly recommended by patients & the one I'm the most comfortable with by far) feels very strongly that 3 of the upper teeth should be retained & I should receive an immediate partial upper denture (with a complete down the road). Of the 3 retained teeth (which are strongly anchored/in-place... versus the others that are very loose)- one is a left molar (#14), another is a right molar (#3) and lastly a right canine (#6). The canine has had a previous root-canal & is fitted with a permanent crown (it's the best tooth in my mouth apparently) & it will not need any work. The 2 remaining molars will need crowns with possible (but not probable) root-canals. These three teeth will help anchor the partial. This dentist feels that this is the best route to go. She stated that she is confident that the remaining upper teeth can survive at least another 5 yrs. She recommended the partial over the full as the partial is allegedly more stable & it will also be an easier transition into a full denture 5 - 10 yrs from now.

The other 2 dentists stated that they didn't feel that the remaining "savable" teeth would make enough of a difference to warrant keeping. One also said that the way the remaining teeth are located in the mouth might actually "cause" stability issues.

The dentist I have chosen to care for my mouth was very informative & stated that she would strongly support my decision either way. She let me know, that she will take very good care of me in any case.

Soooo..... although I'm happy & confident in the dentist I've chosen (which is a big relief for this dental phobic), I am at great odds as to whether I should "go-for" the partial or just get the full upper denture?:confused: Does anyone have any advice? I've scoured the forums for a similar predicament, but I'm not having any luck. Is it worth hanging on to the 3 remaining teeth?:confused: Is there that much of a difference between a "big" partial & a full denture?:confused: Any advice at all would be much appreciated. I feel very lucky to have found this forum with so many understanding & helpful people out there. Thanks so much in advance.
The upper and lower jaws are quite different when it comes to dentures. The rule of thumb is with the lower arch to save any teeth whenever possible as they help lock the denture in place and increase stability. The upper is a different matter. Often if only a few teeth are remaining they actually mean that the denture becomes less stable. This is because the upper denture is held in place by 'suction' to the roof of the mouth- and air can basically get in around these few remaining teeth. There is not really a right or wrong answer here but in my experience , in the upper arch if there were only a few 'saveable' I would probably be tempted to remove them anyway- (there are certain circumstances where this may not be the case- eg people with strong gag reflexes etc). There are also other alternatives such as having one or two of the remaining teeth root treated, and smoothed down so that the denture is made over the top of the roots this means that if someone has problems with the denture staying in place- magnets can be attached to the roots and denture to increase retention. Obviously people spend alot of money on implants to retain dentures- and this move acn prove to be useful in some cases. This would only be considered if the gums were free from gum disease, and would depend on exactly where the teeth are etc. The canine tooth would be ideal for this as it has already had the root treatment and it would be very easy to make this as an 'overdenture' in this area. perhaps ask your dentist if it is an option to keep this root and any others and for the denture to be made over them.
It is a difficult decision you have to make - but at the end of the day it's your mouth and its up to you what you go for. Without seeing your mouth, I can't give you a clinical opinion and it is hard to know how best to advise you- but my gut feeling is that if an overdenture is not a viable option for these 'good' teeth you may be best to just go for having them out now given that that was the advise of 2/3 dentists you have seen.

Gordon - i would be interested to hear your opinion on this- what do you think

Kind regards
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Thank you so much Dr Mike, for taking the time to answer my questions. You brought-up some very good points to ponder (& hopefully help w/ my decision). I haven't had any of the three dentists mention anything about the possibility of root treatment/over-denture. I've never heard of this, but it intrigues me. I will definitely ask my dentist about this as an option.

I read your bio & I can't thank you enough (as well as the other dentists & moderators on this board)! It warms my heart to realize that people like you care enough about us dental phobics to find the time in your very "hectic" schedules to help us out. Best regards to you & best wishes for your baby boy's continued recovery & good health!

I'm also interested in Dr Gordon's take- or any others who care to take a stab at this.

Thanks again!
Tricky one this... if all you had were 2 molars, then I'd go with the full denture option, the loss of the molars would probably allow a better seal for the denture which would compromise the stability of it quite a bit. Especially since the molars don't sound in very good condition. Having the canine available would tend to tip the option slightly the other way, towards a partial...
Having said that, a root treated tooth isn't the most reliable thing to retain a denture either, the extra stress to it from retaining the denture may be too much... basically without some x-rays and a look in your mouth, I'd tend to say go for the partial.

Sometimes you can remove the crown off the canine, fit a little magnet into the denture and engage the magnet with a steel cover on the canine. I've done this a few times with some success. It's less stressful for the tooth than something like a clasp and gives better aesthetics.