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RPA clasp design for distal-extension

partial dentures


Charles M. Eliason, D.D.S., M.A.*

University of the Pacific, School of Dentistry, San Francisco, Calif.

he RPA clasp (rest, proximal plate, Akers clasp)?

was developed at the University of the Pacific School of
Dentistry to overcome some of the problems encountered with the RPI clasp (rest, proximal plate, I-bar


The design characteristics that allow an RPI clasps
to release from an abutment tooth when occlusal forces
are applied to the denture base are shown in Figs. 1
and 2. In addition, the clasp gives good resistance to
occlusal displacement, covers a minimum of tooth
structure, and in most situations shows less metal than
other clasps. An important but seldom mentioned
advantage of the RPI clasp is its avoidance of contact
with the lingual surface of theabutment tooth. Without
a lingual arm, the high survey line on the lingual
surface of many mandibular teeth is not a problem,
making this design useful for tooth-supported as well
as distal-extension removable partial dentures.

Fig. 1. Occlusal view of RPI clasp showing placement

of mesial rest and proximal plate. Proximal plate extends to distolingual surface to provide reciprocation.

Despite these advantages, there are contraindications
for the use of the RPI clasp. Insufficient vestibular
depth will not allow the I bar to be kept 3 mm away
from the gingival margin, which is desirable for its
protection. When a tissue undercut below the abutment
teeth is present, relief for the approach arm of the I bar
may be so extensive that it is uncomfortable to the
patient. In either of these situations, without extensive
mouth alteration the RPI clasp cannot be used.

Because the approach arm of the retentive I bar
arises from the framework well back from the tooth to

Presented to the Pacific Coast Society of Prosthodontists, Newport

Beach, Calif.
*Clinical Assistant Professor of Removable Prosthodontics.
tThe original design was developed by Dr1 Charles A. Eliason and
Dr. Arthur J. Krol in 1970.
0022-3913/83/010025+03$00.30/00 1983 The C. V. Mosby Co.

Fig. 2. RPI clasp showing movement from occlusal

forces. Proximal plate, C, drops gingivally and slightly
mesially into distal undercut as rotation occurs around
mesial rest with approximate center of rotation, B. I bar
moves mesially and slight!y gingivally. A, Survey
line. D, Level of desired undercut.

protect the gingival tissue, in some instances a long and

correspondingly flexible retentive arm results and
expected retention is not obtained. In addition, on
recall examination clasp arms are sometimes found to
be distorted and permanently sprung away from the



Fig. 3. Improperly designed RPA clasp under occlusal

force. Located above survey line, A, rigid portion of
retentive arm cannot move gingivally. This moves
center of rotation distally. Mesial rest lifts out of its
rest seat. Retentive portion of clasp arm engages
mesial undercut, torquing tooth distally.

Fig. 5. Properly designed RPA clasp showing movement from occlusal forces. Proximal plate, C, drops
gingivally and slightly mesially as rotation occurs
around mesial rest with approximate center of rotation, B. Rigid portion of retentive arm contacts tooth
only along survey line, A, and moves gingivally and
mesially. Retentive end of clasp arm moves mesially
and slightly gingivally.

The RPI clasp is generally more esthetic than most

conventional circumferential clasps. However, where
patients show a great deal of gingival tissue when
smiling, or because of personal preference, they may
object to the appearance of the RPI clasp, preferring
the old clasp to which they are accustomed.


Fig. 4. Laboratory blockout of refractory cast for RPA

clasp. Rigid portion of retentive clasp arm is waxed for
casting over blocked-out distofacial surface, E. Only
superior border will be in contact with tooth. Cast
under retentive end of clasp arm is not blocked out.
Arm is in contact with cast at desired level of undercut, D.

tooth. To avoid this, the first part of the clasp coming

off the framework must be thick and rigid, thus making
it difficult to set teeth esthetically.
For some patients the RPI removable partial denture is difficult to manipulate, as there is no convenient
component to grasp with finger- or thumbnail for its
removal. This can be a real problem for patients with
arthritis or other physical disabilities. Relief of clasp
components, especially the I bar where it crosses the
gingival border, is crucial. This relief is sometimes
insufficient, necessitating remakes and delays. When
the required undercut is located close to the gingival
margin, it is difficult to approach gingivally and avoid
impingement on this tissue, even with proper relief.

The RPA clasp was developed to deal with the

problems encountered with the use of the RPI clasp.
The initials signify rest, proximal plate, and Akers
clasp arm. The mesial rest and proximal plate are
designed identically to those of the RPI clasp. The
difference is in the retentive arm. An Akers, or
circumferential clasp arm, arises from the superior
portion of the proximal plate and extends.around the
tooth to engage the mesial undercut.
The RPI assembly is designed with the rest on the
mesio-occlusal surface of the tooth, permitting the other
components to release from the tooth and drop into
undercuts when occlusal loads are placed on the
denture bases. Will this also occur with the RPA
design? If a conventional Akers clasp is used, with the
retentive arm coming off the proximal plate above the
survey line and crossing the survey line in the middle of
the tooth to engage the undercut, then the vital
releasing capability will be lost. The rigid bracing
portion of the arm is not able to move toward the
gingival, so the fulcrum point will in effect be moved
toward the distal surface of the tooth. The components
anterior to the fulcrum point will now lift in function.
When occlusal pressure is placed on the denture bases,
the mesial rest will lift out of its seat, and the retentive







arm will engage the undercut, torquing the tooth

distally (Fig. 3). This is the same kind of force that
often proves destructive to an abutment tooth when a
conventional Akers clasp is used. The design of the
RPA clasp must avoid this problem if it is to successfully function in distal-extension removable partial
In the survey of an abutment tooth for the RPA
clasp, a fairly normal tooth alignment is needed with a
survey line in approximately the middle of the tooth,
providing undercuts on both the mesial and distal
aspects of the facial surface. There must be at least a
0.01 inch undercut mesially.
Mouth preparation is the same as that for the RPI
clasp. A rest seat is placed on the mesio-occlusal surface
of the tooth and a guiding plane prepared on the distal
The final impression is obtained and a master cast
poured. When the master cast is blocked out prior to its
duplication for pouring a refractory cast, the distal half
of the facial surface as well as the surface under the
guiding plane are blocked out. When the Akers clasp
arm is waxed, the superior border of the retentive arm
is placed on the survey line from the proximal plate to
the middle of the tooth, where it then drops down to
engage the necessary undercut for proper retention
(Fig. 4). The undercut will vary from 0.01 to 0.02 inch,
depending on the size of the tooth and the length of the
retentive arm.
When the casting is made, the rigid portion of the
clasp arm will contact the tooth only along its superior
border at the level of the survey line. When an occlusal
load is applied to the denture base, the retentive arm




can move into the undercut because of the relief under

its rigid section and release from the abutment tooth
(Fig. 5). The freedom of the movement may be verified
in the mouth with pressure-indicating Imaterial under
the clasp arm and digital pressure applied to the
denture bases.
The RPA design has been discussed as an alternative
to the RPI design. With its mesial rest and special
retentive arm design, it gives essentially the same kind
of tooth release that the RPI clasp provides.
In addition, there are some advantages over the RPI
design. The circumferential-type retentive arm is easier
to grasp for removal of the prosthesis. The clasp is
simple in design with few variations among patients
and thus can be easily and consistently fabricated by
dental laboratories. But most important, the circumferential retentive arm avoids the tissue problems around
abutment teeth and allows the RPA clasp to be used
in many situations where the RPI clasp is contraindicated.


Kratochvil, F. J.: Influence of occlusal rest position and clasp

design on movement of abutment teeth. J PROSTHET DENT
13:l 14, 1963.
Krol, A. J.: Clasp design for extension-base removable partial
dentures. J PROSTHET DENT 29:408, 1973.


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