If you’re missing teeth, there are many ways to fill in the gaps in your smile. One way is to use a flipper tooth, also called an acrylic removable partial denture.

A flipper tooth is a removable retainer that fits along the roof of your mouth (palate) or sits on your lower jaw, and has one or more prosthetic teeth attached to it.

When you put it in your mouth, it creates the appearance of a full smile, even if you’ve lost teeth due to injury, removal, or decay.

A flipper tooth is a temporary partial denture you can get through your dentist. It’s made by first taking an impression of your mouth with a soft material.

The impression is then sent to a dental laboratory, which uses it to make a customized flipper tooth designed to fit your mouth and fill any gaps in your teeth with prosthetic teeth. The flipper tooth is made from acrylic dental-grade resin.

If you’re missing one or more teeth, you may be considering prosthetics. Here’s what you need to know about a flipper tooth and other prosthetic tooth options, so you can make the best choice for you.

There are some upsides to a flipper tooth that make it an attractive prosthetic tooth option. These include:

  • Affordability. They’re less expensive than most other types of partial dentures.
  • Looks. They appear relatively natural.
  • Quick preparation. You won’t have to wait long for your flipper tooth once your dentist takes an impression of your mouth.
  • Easy to wear. All you have to do is pop your flipper tooth into your mouth.
  • Stabilization of your existing teeth. This makes them less likely to shift.

Can you eat with a flipper tooth?

It can be hard to eat if you’re missing one or more teeth. Not only are you able to eat when using a flipper tooth, you’ll probably be able to chew much better than you could without it.

However, it’s important to be careful while eating with a flipper tooth because they’re made from lightweight material that’s fragile and can break easily.

While there are many benefits to using a flipper tooth to fill in gaps in your smile, there are also a few drawbacks. These include:

  • Durability. They’re made of less expensive and less durable materials than other dentures and can crack more easily. If you break your flipper tooth, you’ll need a repair or a replacement.
  • Discomfort. Your flipper tooth may feel uncomfortable in your mouth, especially when you first begin using it. This can make activities like talking and eating feel unnatural. If your flipper tooth feels painful, schedule an appointment with your dentist so they can take a look.
  • Potential allergy. It’s possible to be allergic to the materials used to make your flipper tooth. Make sure to discuss your allergy history with your dentist.
  • Maintenance. There is a risk of gum disease (gingivitis) and tooth decay if you don’t clean your flipper tooth well.
  • Risk of gum recession. A flipper tooth covers your gums and stops or slows the flow of saliva in that area. Your saliva helps keep your gums clean, which prevents recession.
  • May loosen over time. A flipper tooth is made to grip your own existing teeth, but regular use may cause that grip to loosen. You might have to ask your dentist to give your flipper tooth an adjustment so it fits snugly again.

A flipper tooth is among the least expensive prosthetic tooth options. Yet the costs of a flipper tooth can vary, depending on the materials used and how many teeth your flipper tooth will be replacing.

In general, you can expect to pay between $300 and $500 for a front flipper tooth. If you have dental insurance, it will likely cover some of the costs. You can expect additional costs from periodic adjustments, or if you need to pay to have a flipper tooth repaired.

Caring for a flipper tooth is easy if you stick to a regular maintenance schedule. Just like any retainer, it’s important to clean your flipper tooth every day to remove plaque (bacteria) and bits of food.

You can do this using a soft-bristle toothbrush, warm water and a mild soap such as hand soap or dishwashing liquid. Rinse your flipper tooth thoroughly before popping it back into your mouth. Avoid cleaning your flipper tooth with toothpaste, which can damage it.

If you notice your flipper tooth is causing pain or discomfort, or feels loose, call your dentist for an adjustment. Avoid moving your flipper tooth around in your mouth with your tongue, which can loosen it. You may also want to avoid dark-colored foods and beverages, such as coffee, cranberry juice, and beets.

When you’re not using your flipper tooth, make sure it doesn’t dry out. This can make it more prone to breaking and feeling uncomfortable. Keep your flipper tooth moist by placing it in a denture cleaning soak or water when you take it out of your mouth. If you use water, make sure it’s not too hot, as this can cause a flipper tooth to warp.

Lastly, it’s important to keep up with your overall dental health. Making sure your gums and existing teeth are healthy and clean can help reduce your risk of gum disease, gum recession, tooth decay, tooth sensitivity, and discomfort. See a dentist at least twice a year for check-ups and cleanings, and brush and floss at least twice a day.

Usually a flipper tooth is used for a short period of time, such as when a person is waiting for a more permanent tooth replacement option like dental implants or a fixed bridge. They’re often used to replace front teeth.

But because a flipper tooth can be uncomfortable and may sit loosely in the mouth, it’s typically not recommended for long-term use.

In some cases, a flipper tooth is the best permanent prosthetic tooth option for someone who is missing teeth. This may be the case if you’re not a good candidate for dental implants or a fixed bridge.

If you’re missing one or more teeth, a flipper tooth isn’t your only denture option. Some other alternatives include:

Permanent fixes

These prosthetic tooth alternatives to a flipper tooth are generally long-lasting, but also more expensive:

  • Dental bridges. These are prosthetic teeth that are attached directly to your existing teeth or an implant with cement, crowns, and bonds, instead of being part of a denture.
  • Dental implant. These are posts surgically attached directly to the jawbone to hold a prosthetic tooth.

Temporary fixes

These temporary prosthetic tooth options are less expensive than more permanent fixes, but often last longer than a flipper tooth. They’re also usually more expensive. These alternatives include:

  • Fixed partial denture. These are partial dentures clipped onto your existing teeth, and can only be used if you have healthy remaining teeth to attach them to.
  • Snap-on-smile. A custom-made partial denture that fits over the existing teeth up to the gums without covering the palate.

A flipper tooth is a solid, affordable option for temporary prosthetic tooth replacement for most people. If you’re waiting for a more permanent tooth replacement solution, a flipper tooth might be a good choice for you.

If you need help determining which option is best for you, visit your dentist. They can explain your options and help you choose the best treatment for your situation.