Losing one or more teeth probably sounds like a bad dream you want to wake up from as quickly as possible.
However, it’s a lot more common than you think, and many people are facing this issue trying to find the right option for them.
A missing tooth could be caused by many things, like an injury, a decayed tooth that needed extraction, an untreated gum disease, or the presence of other medical conditions.
Missing teeth and the gaps left behind not only cause an aesthetic and visible issue to your smile but can lead to structural problems too. For example, you might experience complications with your speech or the ability to eat, which make the need for a replacement essential.
Dentistry offers many different solutions, other temporary, other permanent, so every patient can get the optimal treatment to fix their smile and health in the most suitable way.
In our clinic, we’re getting a lot of questions regarding different restorative solutions for missing teeth. And the one that we’ll discuss with you here is using a dental flipper.
You may have heard it by many other names, like flipper dentures, flippers or flipper tooth, but let’s understand more about it.
What Is a Dental Flipper?
A dental flipper is an acrylic removable partial denture that is used to replace one or more gaps from missing teeth inside your mouth.
Dental professionals use dental flippers as a temporary solution until a permanent one is ready. Typically a dental flipper lasts around 8 to 12 months, which is considered an average healing period.
They consist of one or more artificial (false) teeth attached to an acrylic gum-coloured base. They can have acrylic or metal clasps so they can be clipped onto your natural teeth and be securely placed in your mouth.
In order to get a flipper denture, you should have healthy natural teeth inside your mouth so the flipper can be attached to some of them. They can also be easily removed whenever needed.
A dental flipper is an excellent short-term fix as it can support a patient’s psychology by restoring their smile and confidence while supporting their oral health.
Also, a dental flipper is the most cost-effective treatment option compared to other partial dentures.
However, we should highlight here that when most people use terms like a dental flipper, flipper tooth or flipper denture, they might also be referring to any removable partial denture.
To get to the bottom of this, we should simply understand the different options and types available before exploring more about dental flippers.
Dental Flippers Vs Partial Dentures
First of all, dentures, are categorised into two main types; partial and complete. According to the National Health Service (NHS):
- Partial dentures can replace one or a few missing teeth and
- Complete (full) dentures are used when all the upper or lower teeth need to be replaced in a person’s mouth.
Specifically, partial dentures can be either removable or non-removable (fixed). Here are all their different types:
Removable Partial Dentures:
- Acrylic partial dentures (dental flippers)
- Cast metal partial dentures
- Flexible partial dentures
Fixed Partial Dentures (Bridges):
- Dental bridges (also called traditional or conventional bridges)
- Maryland (or resin-bonded) bridges
- Cantilever bridges
- Implant-supported bridges
Fixed partial dentures offer a long-term solution and are attached to the neighbouring teeth or are entirely supported by dental implants (implant-supported bridges). If you’re interested, you can learn more about them here.
On the other hand, most removable partial dentures are used as temporary solutions. But let’s analyse them in more depth to distinguish their differences.
Flexible partial dentures are created by thermoplastic nylon, a flexible material that usually doesn’t require metal retainers—making this type of denture more natural looking and less noticeable.
They are typically only used as a temporary solution and can be a great alternative for someone allergic to acrylic or metal. However, they are a more expensive solution when compared to other partial dentures.
Cast metal partial dentures are the most common type and consist of a cast metal framework that holds the artificial teeth that are set in an acrylic resin.
Metal clasps attach the denture to existing teeth, sharing the same option as dental flippers. However, with cast metal partial dentures, there is an option for using precision attachments, which are more aesthetically appealing than metal clasps.
Many consider cast metal partials a better option, as they can be highly durable with proper care, offering a more long-term solution.
After analysing and comparing all the other different types of removable partial dentures, let’s continue exploring more about dental flipper dentures.
So When Is a Dental Flipper Right for You?
To properly answer this question, we prepared a brief list of the pros and cons of an acrylic partial denture (dental flipper), so you can easily find their properties.
Dental Flipper Benefits:
- It’s easily removable and repositionable
- It’s most affordable compared to other removable partial dentures
- It has a quick and easy preparation
- It instantly improves and restores your smile
- It offers stability to the surrounding teeth
- It doesn’t require demanding care at home
Dental Flipper Downsides:
- It’s a temporary and short-term solution
- It can break easier due to its less durable materials
- It may not feel comfortable in the beginning
- After a while, it might not fit properly and get loosened
- There is a potential risk of allergy
How Can You Get a Dental Flipper?
Once your dental professional evaluates your situation and suggests that a dental flipper is a suitable option, the process is straightforward and quick.
Your dentist will get an impression of your teeth and send it to the dental laboratory to create your denture within a few days.
Keep in mind that if the missing tooth or teeth are not caused by accident, but the plan is to get them extracted, you can schedule and prepare your dental flipper in advance.
So a temporary solution for you is ready to use immediately after your tooth extraction and during the healing process, avoiding any visible gaps.
Caring for Your Dental Flipper
Maintaining a regular routine to properly care for your flipper won’t be difficult. But remember that the first few weeks will be an adjustment period, where you’ll have to learn how to wear it and start feeling more comfortable.
Your dental professional will guide you through the process, help you with all the required steps and offer treatment when there is an issue. However, we collected the following general tips to help you with your routine.
First, try to treat your dental flipper just like any other retainer. Remember to clean it daily to avoid plaque formation by any bacteria or food particles that remain on your flipper.
Of course, don’t forget to care for your natural teeth and remember to brush them and floss before you wear your flipper.
To clean your dental flipper, use a denture brush (soft-bristle toothbrush) but be careful never to use toothpaste.
Instead, use a denture cleaner or a mild soap (hand soap or dishwashing liquid), which is also acceptable, as ADA suggests. Before placing it back in your mouth, ensure to rinse it off carefully.
Another thing to remember is that, generally, flippers are not intended to be used while eating. However, some people have learned how to eat while wearing it.
Our suggestion here is to try and avoid this practice or at least be extremely careful as the chance of breaking it during a meal is high.
A dental flipper is also easy to dry when you’re not wearing it. So try to keep it moist to avoid any breaks or poor fitting. Remember to soak in a proper solution or water (not hot) each time you take it off.
If your dental flipper doesn’t fit well or is causing you any discomfort and pain, don’t try to fix the issue at home. Instead, please schedule an appointment with your doctor so they can take a look and offer you proper care.
Dental Flipper Alternatives
If you’re not convinced yet about dental flippers and still looking for a different option, here is what you might also consider and discuss with your doctor:
- Cast metal partial dentures
- Flexible partial dentures
- Snap-on veneers
- Dental implants
- Dental bridges (Fixed partial dentures)
- Complete dentures (only when replacing all upper or lower teeth)
If you’re missing one or more of your teeth, a dental flipper can be a great first step to restoring your smile in an affordable way. Dental flippers can accompany you through the healing process until the permanent solution is ready.
If you feel that a flipper denture is a good option for you, or still considering other solutions, don’t hesitate to discuss it with your dental professional. It’s the only way to find a treatment that suits your needs.
At Swedish Dental clinic, we’re dedicated to offering our patients the best care to regain their confidence and health. If you have questions or need professional advice, contact our team to book your consultation appointment.