Want the lowdown on flipper teeth, AKA a dental flipper? Let’s take a look at these dentures in this short article.
What are flipper teeth?
Also known as a dental flipper, this is simply a nickname for an acrylic (‘plastic’) removable partial denture. In other words, a form of ‘false teeth’, usually used to replace a missing front tooth (or several teeth). They certainly aren’t the ideal way to replace missing teeth, but in some circumstances they are useful…
When might a dental flipper be used?
Here are some of the main occasions when this type of denture is useful:
- As a temporary replacement of a missing tooth. They are often employed during the time when an implant is settling in, or the gum is healing after an extraction. This settling-in or healing period can take up to six months. Flippers are cheap and so are often used during this time.
- When financial constraints mean that the only alternative would be to have no ‘false tooth’. Acrylic dentures are by far the cheapest way to replace missing teeth and for some are the only affordable option.
Why are they useful in such circumstances?
It might be useful to reiterate the advantages of a dental flipper:
- The main advantage is the cost. Flipper teeth are cheap to make when compared to other options.
- They can often be made quite quickly requiring fewer visits than, say, a metal partial.
- They are fairly easy to adjust and add to if necessary.
- Being lightweight, some people find them easy to get used to (but it has to be said, most would do better with one of the alternatives).
Why are flippers not ideal?
There are many downsides to wearing this type of denture. Here is a list of the main disadvantages:
- They are brittle and easily broken.
- Furthermore, the weakness of the material means that they have to be made quite thick and broad in order to compensate. This can make them a lot less tolerable than the other treatment options.
- The size of the base and design of dental flippers makes them quite unhygienic. The gums are ‘smothered’, and saliva cannot perform its usual cleaning functions under the base. If not looked after properly, flippers can contribute to an increased risk of gum disease and decay.
- Flippers rely on gripping the teeth for retention. This grip can loosen quite quickly, leading to loose dentures.
How should I look after a dental flipper?
If you need, or are getting one of these, even if only as a temporary denture, you need to look after them carefully. They MUST be removed at night and thoroughly cleaned. Be careful when cleaning them, to avoid breakage. See our page on denture hygiene for more information.
What are the alternatives to flipper teeth?
There are three main alternative options to replacing a missing tooth (apart from leaving the gap unrestored). These are:
- Metal removal partial dentures. Made from Cobalt-Chrome, these have many advantages over ‘plastic’ dentures. But they are still removable, which for many is not ideal.
- Bridgework. A bridge is simply a series of crowns fixed together, held in place by the teeth adjacent to any gap. A bridge is fixed in the mouth, but does rely on those anchoring teeth being healthy.
- Implants. Are the ‘gold-standard’ way of replacing missing teeth in the majority of cases. See our section on implants for more info.
In summary, flipper teeth are not considered the best way to replace missing teeth. But many people have to wear them, e.g. while they await permanent replacement treatment in the form of implants or bridgework. Many others wear them happily for years, as they are relatively affordable. If you do need one, make they are well looked after in terms of denture hygiene, and that you attend your dentist regularly to get them checked out.