Objective: To identify factors that influence Removable Partial Denture (RPD) provision, and patient use of RPDs in the UK.
Design: Exploratory qualitative interview study.
Subjects: There were two sample groups. A purposive sample of 16 male and female dentists was categorised in terms of level of RPD provision, experience, and practice characteristics. A purposive sample of 17 male and female partially dentate patients was categorised in terms of RPD use and demographic characteristics.
Data collection: Semi-structured in-depth interviews.
Results: For dentists, RPD provision was indicated by patient demand and physical function of the remaining teeth, but was mediated by NHS fee structures and professional satisfaction. For patients, RPD use was influenced by the trade-off between improved appearance and the unpalatable presence of an RPD in their mouth. The location of the gap(s) was important, but other issues were relevant such as ability to "manage" without the RPD.
Conclusion: When defining "need" for an RPD, dentists focused on physical function of the teeth whereas patients focused on social meanings of the mouth. These differing priorities may improve understandings of patient non-compliance in RPD use. Further research on the relationship between denture use and social identity could be beneficial.