Dental flippers are one type of removable partial dentures, or “removable partials.” All removable partials, including dental flippers, use standard acrylic denture teeth to replace missing natural teeth. The pink base or “plate” portion of a partial denture is an acrylic material identical to the base used in standard full dentures.
The fabrication of dental flippers requires several steps. The dentist or dental technician first takes an impression of the patient’s mouth. A plaster cast is then poured using that impression. The plaster cast and a prescription specifying the appropriate tooth color are sent to a dental laboratory for the actual fabrication.
The laboratory’s technician selects the proper shape and number of acrylic teeth in a shade that most closely matches the specifications in the dental flipper prescription. An acrylic plate is then carefully molded to fit the patient’s palate (for an upper flipper) or to fit just inside the tongue side of the patient’s teeth (for a lower flipper).
Some dental flippers are secured in the patient’s mouth by the pink acrylic plate snapping between the teeth. For a slight additional cost, a dental flipper can be fabricated to be secured in the mouth using wires with small balls on the ends.
Uses for partial dentures
As mentioned earlier, dental flippers are relatively inexpensive dental appliances used to replace one or more missing teeth. Often, they are used on a temporary basis while the patient waits for a more permanent dental crown or bridge to be fabricated. They can also be used to aid the healing process after dental implants have been put into place.
Although a dental flipper is intended to be a temporary solution, some are designed so well that it is not unheard of for people to wear them for many years.
Dental Flippers Have Some Distinct Advantages
Dental flippers are far less expensive than fixed dental bridges, implants and other types of dental appliances. In fact, they are the least expensive way to replace a missing tooth. The difference in their cost means that dental flippers offer a distinct advantage to patients with tight budgets.
Several missing teeth can be replaced at the same time by using a single partial denture. A partial denture can therefore avoid or at least postpone the need for individual bridges or dental implants when several teeth are missing. In addition, a fixed dental bridge might not be appropriate if three or more teeth in a row are missing, or if the teeth on either side of the missing teeth are not healthy. These issues do not present any difficulty when a dental flipper is used.
Despite being considered a temporary solution, many people wear partial dentures for many years. If the patient uses good oral hygiene and the dental flipper is properly maintained, it can provide an outward appearance similar to that of a more expensive permanent dental appliance.
Partial dentures can also serve as “immediate” partial dentures. A flipper can be fabricated before unhealthy teeth are extracted, and then be inserted immediately after the extraction. In addition, if a patient is already wearing a flipper but an additional natural tooth must be extracted, an impression can be made with the flipper in place. The dental lab uses this impression (with the flipper embedded in it) to insert a false tooth in place of the bad one. This is a one-day procedure, enabling a patient to have a good replacement tooth the same day the offending tooth is extracted. Aside from the cost advantage, the fact that new teeth can easily be added to an existing plate is perhaps the biggest advantage of using a partial denture.
Partial dentures may not be quite as aesthetically appealing as a permanent bridge because the clasping wires often used to secure them may not be completely concealed. Due to being removable, they are not as stable as bridges. They can also impair gum health if worn for extended periods, making good oral hygiene essential. Their irregular shapes also make them somewhat brittle and eating requires care or even removal to prevent breakage.
All in all, however, dental flippers are a viable and relatively inexpensive treatment option for people with missing teeth.