bone grafts implants

The Flipper Alternative to a Partial Before a Dental Implant

dental flippers

Ask your dentist about an alternative to dental partials before implants

My upper lip has been swollen for the past several days because I had a couple of dental implants, made out of titanium, drilled into my mouth on Friday. I’ve been taking it easy, resting, letting the area heal, and texting like crazy because up until today it’s been a little bit difficult to talk to my clients. Sacramento real estate goes on, regardless of my condition. The point of this blog is not to describe what a trooper I am throughout this process, yet now that I mention it, I think I have been rather brave, but it is to tell you about a new process that you might want to know about if and when the time comes for you to get a dental implant.

For a variety of reasons, when we get past 50, some of us begin to lose our teeth. It’s like being 21 all over again and crawling up the back of the dentist’s chair when he wants to yank out an impacted wisdom tooth, screaming drugs, give me drugs. OK, maybe that’s only me. The solution for replacing teeth is to a) walk around looking like a hillbilly or b) wearing a partial or c) getting a dental implant. Most of us, if we have good insurance and can afford it, choose a dental implant.

But dental implants are expensive and, not only that, there is that gap in time between when your tooth is extracted and when the dental implant goes in. What do you do with the missing space in your teeth during that time period? Some people choose to go commando, and sometimes I do that, but when I’m meeting with clients for the first time, I don’t want them to stare at my smile. I also don’t want to wear a dental partial because they are hideous. I don’t care what you do to the stupid plastic devices, they either wrap around your lower teeth or hit the top of your mouth, making speech incredibly difficult and your tongue just won’t stop poking it. They are uncomfortable, to say the least.

There is an alternative. I only discovered it because I yapped enough about how much I hate partials and wanted to know if there was some other way to do it. Turns out there is. It’s called a dental flipper. Dentists in America tend to not recommend them but they’re used in Asia and Europe extensively, I hear. The reason doctors in the United States often don’t prescribe them is because somehow, and I have no idea how you would do this, people sleep with device intact and then swallow them. The idea there is just don’t sleep with them. Besides, they are so secure, I can’t begin to imagine how you could possibly flick them off and scoot them down your throat.

They are shaped sorta like a butterfly. It’s just one tooth, with these tiny plastic wings. They snap into place. The flippers are very comfortable, too. They cost twice as much as a dental partial, but what the hey. Some things are worth it. A flipper is one of those things.

A number of people need bone grafts when they have a tooth pulled prior to an implant because part of the reason we lose our teeth is due to bone loss. We need bone to hold our teeth in place . This is why the whole process can take 9 months to a year. That’s without complications, like, say, not drilling the titanium rod into your sinus cavity, which I’ve had happen as well at a periodontist in Midtown. The guy I go to now is Dr. Phelps in Elk Grove, and he is marvelous. I can’t say enough good things about him. He puts you out, completely out, and that’s after you’re relaxed with the laughing gas.

Let me add that I really look forward to going to the dentist. You betcha!

The process, and I’ve had eight implants, goes like this: Yank out the tooth. Insert bone graft material. Healing period is 4 to 6 months. Insert implant. Healing period 3 to 4 months. Prepare a temporary crown, wait a week or two. Attach permanent crown. A flipper makes all of that waiting time bearable because you look like a normal person.

I hope this tip helps you in the event you end up getting an implant. Ask for a flipper. Also, if you’re a woman, you might want to make sure you tell people it’s a dental implant in case they are looking at you in the wrong place.

Subscribe to Elizabeth Weintraub\'s Blog via email