Patients with removable partial dentures or complete dentures do not demonstrate masticatory function to the same level as patients with a full set of natural teeth. The purpose of this study was to characterize the relationship between reduction of masticatory function, in terms of masticatory performance and bite force, and the existence of remaining natural occlusal supports as assessed by the Eichner index. One hundred and eighteen removable partial denture and complete denture wearers were selected for analyses. These subjects were divided into four groups depending upon the number of occlusal supports. Seventy dentate subjects with full occlusal support were designated as a comparison group. Bilateral bite force was measured at the first molar region in all subjects. Masticatory performance was assessed using the modified Masticatory Performance Index. Peanuts were used as the test food. Both bite force and masticatory performance were significantly associated with group classification. Moreover, both bite force and masticatory performance of the four denture groups were significantly reduced compared to the comparison group and this tendency was remarkable for the denture groups without occlusal support. These results suggest that the existence of functional tooth units may be a key factor in preservation of masticatory function.
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