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Article: The Flipper; a whale of an option DR. JERRY GORDON
A bridge and implants can cost significantly more than a removable partial denture, and may not be viable options for some patients. In certain cases, a removable partial denture may be the best or only choice available.

Missing teeth is a common dilemma for many people who have had teeth removed because of extensive cavities, gum disease, injuries, and those who may have never developed some of their own teeth due to a hereditary trait. The three most common ways for a dentist to replace one or more missing teeth are a bridge (a series of joined caps), an implant(s), or a removable partial denture. Although a bridge or dental implants may be more comfortable and cosmetically pleasing than a removable partial denture, there are some drawbacks. A bridge and implants can cost significantly more than a removable partial denture, and may not be viable options for some patients. In certain cases, a removable partial denture may be the best or only choice available.

The typical cast removable partial denture, or "cast partial", consists of a metal base that has acrylic teeth attached to it. Metal clasps are the hook-like structures that help hold the removable partial denture in place. Although the cast partial can be a bit cumbersome, it has been used successfully for decades in the dental profession. Another type of removable partial denture is the all-acrylic variety, sometimes referred to as an interim (temporary) removable partial denture or a "flipper". The flipper sometimes gets a bad rap by the dental profession because it is not as sturdy as the cast partial, but on the other hand, it has several advantages over it. The flipper can be made in a few days with only two dental visits needed. The cast partial usually requires at least a month to create and involves about four visits. The flipper is lightweight because it has much less metal (typically only a metal clasp or two) making it more comfortable and esthetic than the cast partial. I sometimes recommend the flipper to a person who needs teeth replaced later in life and has never worn any other type of removable partial denture in the past. The flipper tends to be easier to get used to. Finally, the flipper usually costs about half as much as a cast partial.

The decision of how to replace missing teeth is one that you should explore with your dentist. There are many options available, all with certain advantages and disadvantages. Although a bridge or dental implant(s) may be preferable to some people, the flipper should also be considered because it is a great low cost way to replace missing teeth.

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Dr. Gordon is the dental columnist for the Bucks County Courier Times. He has published more than 300 articles since 1998. Dr. Gordon was recently asked to provide commentary about mid-level providers for the influential dental journal Dental Abstracts.

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