With an informal term like this, it’s natural that we might have some confusion about what, exactly, we’re referring to.
When dentists use the term “flipper,” they’re usually referring to a provisional tooth replacement.
A provisional replacement is something that your dentist will have you use on a short-term basis while a more permanent replacement is being made. It’s a temporary tooth. Flipper teeth are usually used to replace front teeth for a basic cosmetic masking of lost teeth.
A flipper tooth or teeth is basically a removable partial denture that has one or more teeth attached to a plastic base that fits along the roof or floor of your mouth. It doesn’t have metal wires or clasps to help it hold on to your natural teeth. It’s very loose in the mouth, and it gets its name because almost any pressure on the false teeth will cause the restoration to flip out of place. Or maybe it got its name because it kind of looks like a flipper you might wear snorkeling. It’s hard to say where these slang words come from.
However, when most people use the term dental flipper, they might also be referring to any removable partial denture. Partial dentures are designed to be a long-term teeth replacement. They have more features to help them stay in place, such as wires, hooks, and clasps. In theory, they shouldn’t slip out of place and flip up when you bite down. In practice, though, many people find that these don’t stay in place well enough to be used when eating.
Flipper Alternatives: Temporary Solutions
If your dentist is recommending a provisional flipper, you should know that even dentists consider this to be a terrible option. And you have plenty of other options.
First, you might get what is known as an Essix retainer. This is basically a clear plastic aligner like we use for Invisalign, but with a false tooth bonded into the spot where your missing tooth is.
Another option is what is known as a Maryland bridge. This type of dental bridge is bonded directly to your teeth on either side of the gap, rather than being bonded to dental crowns. This provisional looks good and stays in place for biting and chewing (as long as you’re not too hard on it).
Finally, if you’re getting dental implants, many dentists these days will put a provisional dental crown on the implant itself. This isn’t always possible, but if it can be done in your case, some studies indicate that this might actually give even better results than leaving your implant to heal without a crown.
Flipper Alternatives: Permanent Solutions
Partial dentures are not good permanent solutions for replacing your teeth. There are other alternatives.
Dental bridges are tooth replacements that use your natural teeth for support. Sometimes these are called “fixed partial dentures.” That’s because they are bonded to dental crowns that fit over your natural teeth. These are designed so that you can bite and chew normally. That might mean that the bridge has to be limited to replacing just one missing tooth, supported by two natural teeth. More than that can put excessive strain on the natural teeth, which can cause you to lose a tooth that supported the bridge.
Usually, a better solution is a dental implant. Dental implants look and function like natural teeth. They have a titanium root that bonds directly to your jawbone. Because they’re secure in the jawbone, you can bite and chew normally. Most people can get dental implants, and they can be used for almost any tooth replacement. You should be in good oral health, and you might need a tissue graft, either a bone graft for support or a gum graft for cosmetic purposes.
Another benefit of dental implants: they can be a truly permanent solution. While dentures may last up to a decade, and dental bridges may last 10-15 years, dental implants can last 20-30 years, and have lasted up to 50 years! Essentially, we don’t know the limits of dental implant therapy.
Tips for Living with a Flipper
But what can you do if you got a flipper and now you’re stuck with it? Make the best of a bad situation. Here’s how.
Eating with a Flipper
Temporary flippers aren’t really designed for eating, but it can be done. Try eating softer food more often. Don’t eat anything that you have to bite into, like a sandwich. Instead, choose foods that you eat with a knife and fork, and cut the food up small so you don’t have to chew it as much.
Don’t rely on your front teeth to pull food off your fork. Use your lips or your side teeth if you have food on the fork to eat.
Chew evenly on both sides of your mouth, using mostly your back teeth.
Be prepared to take your flipper out and clean it after every meal. Otherwise, food will get stuck under the flipper and start to rot, which can smell (and taste) very bad.
Speaking with a Flipper
It can be very hard to speak with a flipper at first, but with practice most people adapt pretty well. Unlike biting and chewing, speech doesn’t put a lot of force on your teeth. Even this may be enough to dislodge your flipper, though, so be prepared. Speaking without sending your flipper flying might take some dedicated practice.
You can practice speech by talking to the mirror or reading aloud. If you need a conversation partner, hopefully your spouse, child, or a close friend will have patience with you. Otherwise, you can use the trick that Hollywood stars use if they have to practice with a denture for a role: call customer service. With even a minor problem, you can get them on the phone for a while–and you’ll be able to gauge how well someone can understand just your speech, without visual clues.
Quality Dentistry in Tulsa
If you’re unhappy with a flipper and are looking for a better tooth replacement in Tulsa, we can help. Please call (918) 528-3330 today for an appointment with Tulsa implant dentist Dr. Meghan Hodges at élan.