Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

January 21, 2019

Are Nesbit partials illegal in Pennsylvania?


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I had a partial Nesbit on my #2 upper molar (upper right) & threw it out in error at a restaurant.
I live in Pittsburgh, PA, & my dentist & the Pitt dental school tell me Nesbit partials are now illegal in PA.
Could you please tell me what states that are close to me permit Nesbit partials?
– Kathleen from Pennsylvania

Kathleen,
I am not aware of any dental procedure or dental prosthesis being outlawed in any state. Hearing you tell me what your dentist and the dental school said about the Nesbit partial, I thought I would check the most recent version of Pennsylvania’s dental practice act. Not only did I see no mention of Nesbit partials, but I saw no section of the law where any particular dental procedure or device was outlawed. Several years ago I received a report from a patient in Oregon who said her dentist told her that Nesbits were illegal in Oregon, and I remain skeptical about that also.

Now maybe the Pennsylvania Dental Board has passed some rule on this, but I am highly skeptical. What could be the case, giving your dentist and the dental school the benefit of the doubt, is that there was some lawsuit in Pennsylvania where the dentist gave a patient a Nesbit partial and was successfully sued, but I think there would have to be some negligence on the part of the dentist for that suit to be successful—a failure to warn the patient of the risks of such a partial. Or maybe what is going on is that the dental school and your dentist are so adamant about the risks of this small partial that they are exaggerating the situation.

So if you’re really determined to get another Nesbit partial, I would start by asking around to other dentists in Pittsburgh. If other dentists confirm that it is illegal, then I’m pretty confident that you could go across the border into Ohio or West Virginia with no problem and find a dentist to do this.

Having said that, I think you would be better off listening to their strong discouragement on this and getting some other type of tooth replacement—a flipper partial for example. A Nesbit partial is extremely easy to swallow if it comes loose and could easily puncture your esophagus or intestine causing serious medical issues. I had an experience in my practice when I was just out of dental school where I made one of these partials for a patient. He came in later saying that he had lost it. On quizzing I learned that it disappeared overnight, and I warned him that he could have swallowed it in his sleep and urged him to get x-rayed. He wasn’t interested in doing that. And then, when it was time for his next 6-month checkup, I learned that he had died. That story from then afterward spooked me about these Nesbit partials and I didn’t do any more of them. Instead, I would make larger flipper partials that were just as inexpensive.
– Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

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