Dental Flipper choices – Waiting on dental implant

Dental flipper alternative

 I have a front tooth missing and am waiting for my dental implant!!  What looks and functions best for me???  Dental flipper?

Dental flipper or something similar in your near future?  So you lost, or you never had, one or multiple front teeth.  A dental flipper is the traditional manner to temporarily restore that area, but you have other options.  You may have made the decision that dental implants are the best option for you long term.  If you have already decided to have a dental implant placed click here to see your dental implant temporary options.  Alternatively, if you are too young for a dental implant, you’re waiting for the implant site to heal, or the right time to spend the money; you have options.  I will cover the 6 choices on what you can do, including having a dental flipper made.

  Dental flipper options and alternatives

Dental flipper options

1. Place a mini screw in the space and a single crown on that.  Some people are doing this but research is showing it has a negative impact on the bone as a young adult grows and can result in not enough bone development in the site for a final implant.  Although this can be done successfully and there are tons of great before and after cases; you can shoot yourself in the foot with this technique.
2. Bonded Maryland bridge.  This is the only fixed option I offer.  They look nice and are functional.  Before dental implants became popular, this was by far the most common option because it can last a lifetime sometimes.  If you are definitely getting implants done this is probably overkill, unless you need to wait years before implant placement.
These last four options are removable and are most likely what you are looking for.
3. Removable dental flipper or retainer.  If you had orthodontics you know what a retainer is.  This one just has teeth attached to it.
4. Flexible partial denture is like a removable flipper but is a newer product.
5. Essix style retainer.  This looks like a bleaching tray or Invisalign tray but has teeth in it.
6. Snap-on smile.  Covers multiple teeth.  This is like a removable bridge and covers all the front teeth.
1. We are currently not offering the mini-screw option.  We use the same technology called TADs, but for different purposes.

 Maryland Bridge

2.   Maryland bridge is a type of dental bridge that consists of a metal or porcelain framework with a porcelain artificial tooth which is put into the front of the framework. It has 1 or 2 wings.  I only do a wing on one side and do not have any issues with them coming off.  However, most dentists use a wing on each side as shown below. These wings get bonded onto the teeth next to it.  This bridge was developed at the University of Maryland, thus got its name as Maryland.

Image of a maryland bridge
An example of a Maryland bridge
Artistic rendering of a Maryland bridge
Artistic rendition of a Maryland bridge.

Advantages of Maryland bridge

  • The Maryland bridge is a conservative treatment for splinting or replacing missing teeth.
  • Esthetics can be good, but depends on your dentist ability.
  • Since, it combines a composite resin that a dentist bonds to enamel that he/she acid etches, it’s very strong.  It is strong enough that you can eat normally and do not have to worry about it falling out.
  • Used for a many years as a permanent lifetime solution so clearly is more than strong enough for your temporary solution.

Problems Associated with a Maryland Bridge

  • They are tough to get a perfect match.
  • Maryland bridges are most expensive option.
  • They occasionally require some tooth modification, ie cutting of teeth next to the space.
  • They can pop out although that is rare.

 Removable Flipper

3. Removable Flipper looks very similar to a retainer but has teeth on it and not as much metal.  There is essentially no metal in the front. Here are pictures of three different examples.
Image of a removable dental flipper
Image of an acrylic dental flipper
 An acrylic tooth is selected that most closely matches the shade of your teeth.  Then a pink plate is molded to fit the roof of your mouth for upper flippers or to fit just inside the tongue side of your teeth for lower flippers.  To help secure the dental flipper in your mouth a dentist will sometimes use small wires with little ball ends.  Otherwise, it is secured by the pink acrylic snapping between your teeth.  Here is an example of one replacing two front upper lateral incisors with metal clasps in the back.  If you look close you can just see the metal in the back.
Image of a removable dental flipper in place

 Advantages of removable dental flipper

  • Cheapest option
  • A dentist can fabricate this quickly (with in a day or 2).
  • Works well most of the time
  • They are the “standard of choice” by most dentists.

Problems Associated with a removable dental flipper

  • They are tough to get a perfect match.
  • Removable dental flippers can press on the gums and so are not very healthy for the gums.
  • Teeth on flippers break off easily, so be careful!
  • They do not hold up well to chewing and eating and by that I mean they break!  We tell patients that whenever possible remove them before eating to avoid breaking the flipper.
  • For replacing just one or two teeth, it is a lot of “hardware” in your mouth.

Flexible partial dentures

4. Duraflex, valplast, tcs, Resure are all name brand versions of flexible partial denture. They are similar to the choice above but are made of a moderately pliable product. We use this material to make removable partials and I think this is a great idea to use for some people.  It is newer so fewer labs and dentists will offer it.

Image of one of the dental flipper options


 Advantages of this style of dental flipper

  • Can look very esthetic
  • Works well most of the time
  • Only has to touch 2 teeth next to empty area
  • Great idea when have a tooth in or near the back when want something but exact match not critical

Problems Associated with this style of dental flipper

  • They can be tough to get a perfect match.
  • Some types of flexible partials can press on the gums and thus can be irritating.
  • They are be hard to adjust
  • It can be difficult to eat with them.
  • They usually can not be added to or repaired.


5. Essix style is a custom clear retainer, similar to the Invisalign product, that snaps over all of the upper or lower teeth.  It is a fairly hard acrylic.  Here is someone wearing one
 Image of essix temporary retainer dental implant
 Here is what it looks like
Image of an essix temporary retainer

  Advantages of essix

  • Comfortable to wear
  • Works well most of the time
  • A dentist can fabricate this very quickly and sometimes in their own office immediately.
  • Pretty strong so you are unlikely to break.
  • Acts as a retainer also so do not need to wear the retainer.
  • Can eat with it but be careful
  • Will protect area of implant when it is in because no pressure is on the tissue

Problems Associated with an essix

  • Almost always tough to get a perfect match.
  • Essix can make you talk a little funny at first

Snap-On Smile

6. Snap-On Smile is the name brand of a product that we use to improve the smiles of those that can not afford veneers.  It is also a very nice temporary that can replace a single tooth or more.  Rather than copy information from their website here is the link to what it is.  Snap-On

Advantages of Snap-On

  • Most patients mind it to be comfortable to wear.
  • It can look great, because it can give you a whole new smile!
  • A Snap-On is strong so you can eat with it.  Patients must still be careful, though.
  • Since a Snap-On protects the gums where the implant is, it ensures no damaging pressure can be put on bone or tissue grafts around the implant.
  • If thinking about veneers, it can give you a trial run of what they might look like.

Problems Associated with a Snap-On

  • They may be too bulky, thus impacting the look and feel.
  • They may mess with your bite some so important to remove it at night and preferably for as many meals as possible.
  • Snap-On is the most expensive option available and costs about 3-5 times that of a flipper, an essix, or a delineator.
Personally, I would go with either option 3, 4, 5, or 6.
Here is someone who had both an essix and a snap-on made while waiting for her implant to heal.  She had both made and chose the snap-on.  It is often hard to say which will look better ahead of time, therefore this is often a best guess by your dentist.
Image of dental implant missing tooth
Nothing in
Image of a snap on temporary
Snap-on in
Image or an essix retainer
Essix retainer in – Flash makes look worse than really is. These are the same as Invisalign trays
Image final dental implant crown
Final crown