Metal-free management of missing teeth

Restoration and Repair
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Solvay Dental 360’s Phillip Silver explains the benefits of Ultaire AKP the latest metal-free material for removable partial dentures

Data predicts that more individuals are likely to retain functioning dentition into old age than ever before. However, there are still a significant number of people who have some teeth missing, and, as the population ages the number of people requiring prostheses is likely to rise.

As dental professionals are aware, the practical and anatomical implications of missing teeth can be considerable. As well as compromising the ability to speak and smile, it can cause bite changes and chewing difficulties, as well as increased stress, load and wear on the remaining teeth. The psychological effects of missing teeth can also be substantial causing insecurity and a lack of self-esteem, while other negative perceptions associated with missing teeth can create significant barriers to personal and social success.

In a great many cases dentists might prefer to replace missing teeth with dental implants. Undeniably, implant technology has evolved extensively over the last few decades. Implants are currently the only option that replaces the root of a tooth as well as the crown and provide patients with a functional, durable and comfortable solution that can restore a natural looking smile, while also preventing the deterioration of the jawbone.

However, dental implant therapy can be complex as well as extensive, with placement and healing times taking up to a year. It is not suitable for everyone – including those with immune disorders, degenerative bone conditions, or a history of oral disease – but for a great many patients it is the cost of implant treatment that proves the greatest barrier to consent. A recent review revealed that 43% of people surveyed said they would not consider dental implants because they are too expensive. For these patients dental professionals will need to consider equally efficient yet less expensive options.

For one or two missing teeth a bridge fixed to adjacent teeth with clasps is a suitable solution. When the gap is larger and more teeth need to be replaced a removable partial denture (RPD) is a more stable option. Traditionally, prosthetic teeth are fixed to a plastic plate or a metal framework with metal clasps to keep the denture in place. While this is a viable restoration option for a great many patients, others experience difficulties with metal-framed dentures. For example, the weight or thickness of the frame may feel uncomfortable or compromise speech, some might experience metal sensitivity or an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth, and if metal is visible when the patient smiles or speaks they may consider it an unsatisfactory outcome.

Fortunately, metal-free frames manufactured from polymers are now available, frames which provide greater comfort for patients who would rather wear an RPD than invest in dental implants. The latest high performance polymer to hit the UK market is Ultaire AKP, manufactured by Solvay Dental 360. This custom-designed material has been specifically developed to meet the exacting performance requirements of the dental sector and to offer a new and effective alternative to metal RPD frames. Frames made from Ultaire AKP are thin, lightweight and biocompatible, with bone-like properties that improve the overall fit of the dentures and could help limit future bone loss. Ultaire AKP is also available as a milling disc, so, unlike metal frames, it is ideal for CAD/CAM framework fabrication and can be milled quickly, accurately and efficiently. Furthermore, with no metal in sight, patients will be delighted with the aesthetically superior outcomes that can be achieved.

The management of missing teeth is going to be an essential element of dental practitioners’ and technicians’ remit for years to come. Of course dentures have been an option for a very long time, however, now there is an opportunity to offer more suitable, high performance and economical solutions when dental implants are not an option.

Phillip Silver is the UK business manager and consultant at Solvay Dental 360. He is a specialist in medial technologies and materials, with over two decades of experience in both implantable and non-implantable devices. Phillip has worked in a range of clinical fields incorporating digital techniques and introducing new and novel technology into restorative dentistry, replacement and reconstructive surgery and facial plastics.