Learn more about dental flippers or partial dentures that dentists or oral surgeons may use as a temporary replacement.
A dental flipper is a removable partial denture that dentists or oral surgeons may use as a temporary replacement if you have one or more missing teeth.
Dental flippers, as a partial denture, are typically made from denture acrylic that resembles your gums, and it supports the replacement tooth.
Depending on how many teeth are missing, a dental flipper may have clasps like a retainer to hold it in place around your existing teeth¹.
When you are missing a tooth, eating may becomes more difficult, and a gap in your teeth can make you withhold your smile. This is why it is important to replace your missing tooth as soon as possible.
Replacement options for a missing tooth can help you eat more comfortably, speak clearer, help improve overall oral health, and smile more confidently. Depending on your age and specific dental needs, typically there are permanent and semi-permanent options available to fix your missing tooth. A dental flipper is one option for tooth replacement.
Dental partials benefits¹
Improved appearance: Fills in the gaps where your teeth are missing so you don’t have a visible gap or missing tooth.
Prepare in advance: If your dentist needs to extract your tooth because of damage or disease, a dental flipper typically can be made before your tooth is removed.
Easier to eat: Allows you to chew food more easily with a missing tooth or teeth.
Stability for your teeth: Helps keep the teeth around the gap in place, which helps prevent your other teeth from shifting.
Convenient: Simple to wear and can easily be taken out of your mouth for nightly cleaning.
Comfort and look: Some believe dental flippers to be more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing than other temporary alternatives, such as cast partials made of metal.
Affordable: Dental flippers are typically more affordable than many other dental alternatives.
Easy to make: Typically you can get your dental flippers made quickly, often within a day or two.
If you are ready for a more permanent replacement solution but are waiting for the site to heal, either after tooth extraction or after a bone or tissue graft, a dental flipper may be a good temporary fixture during this time. Healing can sometimes take up to six months².
If you’re too young for permanent implants, your dentist gives you a flipper as a semi-permanent alternative for your missing teeth. Your jawbone must be finished growing before you can get an implant, so kids who lose permanent teeth often use flippers until they turn 17 or 18 years old and can get implants³.
Options for missing teeth
Depending on the location and number of teeth that you are missing your dentist may have few options to replace your missing teeth. If determined by a dentist, a dental flipper is an affordable way to replace a missing tooth without requiring painful tooth extractions that you will need with a traditional denture. Here are a few other common considerations to think about before getting a partial denture:
Can you eat with a dental flipper?⁴
Yes, you can eat with a dental flipper. One of the benefits of dental flippers is that you can eat and chew more comfortably than you could with gaps from missing teeth.
How long can you wear a dental flipper?
Dental flippers are typically intended to be worn temporarily, while you wait for your gums to heal before getting a permanent implant. But some people may choose to wear flippers indefinitely, either because of the low cost or because they’re lightweight and easy to adjust to.
For kids with missing teeth who are younger than 17, a flipper may be a long-term solution until they’re old enough to get implants⁵. However, dental flippers are prone to breaking easily, and require regular care to keep them clean and to protect your other teeth and gums⁶.
What's the best way to clean dental flippers?
As instructed by your dentist, remove your flippers at night and scrub them gently with water or toothpaste, then soak them overnight in a glass with an antifungal and antibacterial denture tablet. You can put your clean flippers back in your mouth in the morning.
Visit your dentist twice a year to closely monitor your dental flipper and adjust it if it becomes loose.
What are common drawbacks of dental flippers?
Though dental flippers are typically more affordable and quicker to make than other dental alternatives, there are common cons to flippers for patients to consider⁷:
Lightweight material means flippers might break easily.
Design of flippers covers your gums so saliva cannot clean your gums properly.
If not properly cared for, flippers can contribute to increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
Flippers need to grip your existing teeth to work properly, but this grip can quickly loosen.
What are pageant flippers?⁸
Unlike dental flippers, pageant flipper teeth are false teeth typically worn in beauty pageants and similar events to hide imperfections. These types of flippers are much cheaper and are for cosmetic purposes only. Pageant flippers are not medical solutions for missing teeth.
Are there dental flipper alternatives?⁹
Metal removable partial dentures
Made with a metal framework and gum-colored plastic or acrylic.
Metal framework goes across the roof of your mouth or around the back of your lower teeth and hooks onto your remaining teeth, like a flipper.
More stable than flippers, though still removable.
Sometimes the metal framework shows, which is not aesthetically preferable.
A bridge is a series of crowns fixed together and held in place by the teeth adjacent to any gap.
A bridge is fixed in the mouth.
Relies on adjacent anchoring teeth to be functional.
Partial dentures for front teeth
Partial dentures typically can be created for both the front and back teeth. People who are missing a front tooth may struggle with biting down on food and oftentimes they are reluctant to smile due to the missing tooth². However, partial dentures can help fill the gap, making chewing easier and improving your smile.
How much are “fake” teeth?
Fake teeth, or dentures, are completely different from a partial denture. When you get a complete set of dentures your dental technician will typically first extract all of your teeth, the resulting denture is held on by suction after the healing process has completed. Partial dentures, on the other hand, only replace the teeth that are missing. Rather than using suction, partial dentures are held in by clipping to nearby healthy teeth³.
Flipper teeth typically cost between $300 and $500, depending on the number of teeth you need to replace and the materials used¹⁰.
A dental flipper may fall under the category of partial dentures with your dental insurance policy. Be sure to talk to your policy carrier to see if dental flippers are covered in your dental plan.
Prosthetic teeth & related insights
A prosthetic tooth is any type of false tooth, including dentures, implants, crowns, bridges, partial dentures, and veneers. To have a dental prosthetic device made your dentist will typically conduct a full assessment and recommend the prosthetic that fits you and your needs the best.
Having dental insurance is a good way to ensure that you have affordable access to partial dentures or flipper teeth. Before purchasing an insurance plan, it can be helpful to do some research so that you understand how insurance and your benefits work. Guardian Direct® has a library of resources available, at no cost to you, so that you can educate yourself on the ins-and-outs of dental insurance. This research can help ensure that you make an informed decision when choosing for you and your family when it comes to dental insurance.
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