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Wearing a Flipper Tooth With a Healing Abutment

A flipper tooth can be worn with a healing abutment and that's what people usually do until they get their implant crown but the flipper does need to be adjusted.


Dental flipper next to abutment model
Flipper next to abutment on model

We will explain how you can still wear it and why it is still possible to do so. However, you're not obligated to continue with the tooth flipper if you don't want to.


Table of contents:


Can you wear a flipper with an abutment?

Yes, you can wear a flipper with an abutment and you wear it the same way you've been doing it the entire time. The flipper is worn over the entire dental healing abutment for the implant.


However, in order for you to continue to do this you will need to have your dental flipper adjusted by your dentist. That isn't something you can do at home because it does require equipment that only a dentist would have.


Adjustment is needed

Prior to receiving the healing abutment cap, you had a cover screw over the dental implant. It is the switch from the cover screw over to the healing cap that is the cause for the need of an adjustment. The size discrepancy between these two implant parts is the root of your problem.


cover screw vs healing abutment
Cover screw compared to healing abutment

Why an adjustment is needed:

  • The cover screw is significantly smaller than the abutment so it can accommodate the flipper without any additional interventions.

  • The healing abutment is significantly larger than the cover screw and it sticks out above the gum line. It encroaches upon the flipper's personal space in the mouth and will not yield. Basically, your flipper will not fit because the abutment is too big.


Below are images which demonstrate what we mean by the abutment being too big to accommodate the flipper.



Now you can compare that to how the flipper fits with just a cover screw.




In summary, when the cover screw gets replaced by the healing abutment screw, your flipper will no longer fit because the latter is too big. However, the good news is that your removable temporary prosthesis can be adjusted to fit over the abutment screw.


How to adjust flipper with abutment

You can have the flipper tooth adjusted by your dentist which involves drilling away the interior of the prosthesis. The purpose is to create more room or more space on the inside so that it can fit over your new abutment.


The image below shows the location of where they would do the adjustment.


Inside of flipper of where adjustment needs to be made for abutment

In layman's terms, what your dentist is doing is basically hollowing out the interior of the tooth flipper to create more space for it to fit over the abutment.


How it get hollowed out:

  • Using a high speed drill or a straight nose cone, a bur is used to bore out the interior.

  • Residual pieces of the acrylic can be polished and smoothed out.


As a note, the acrylic flippers are easier to adjust than the flexible plastic ones like valplast. Your dentist can make adjustments quicker and more precisely with the old school acrylic types.


How long will the appointment take?

The adjustment visit should be fairly quick, taking 15-20 minutes at most. Your dentist will try the removable prosthesis back into your mouth multiple times until it finally fits. If it doesn't, they will continue to adjust it until it does.


The whole process should be painless as well so don't be shy nor hesitant in going in for an adjustment appointment. After all, the only drilling that is done is on the flipper and the best part of it is, it's done outside of the mouth.


Pros & Cons

While you're not obligated to wear the tooth flipper, most people do because it improves their aesthetics by hiding their missing tooth. Typically if you're getting the healing abutment put on, it means that you should have your permanent crown within a few weeks.


Nonetheless, below are some advantages and disadvantages in continuing to wear it.


Pros:

  • Replaces your missing tooth.

  • Restores your smile.


Cons:

  • Not as comfortable as real teeth.

  • Removable so it comes on and off.

  • Delicate and not sturdy at all


You may be surprised but some people choose not to wear it because they don't like it. However, if it is your front tooth that you're missing you may be forced to wear it since people don't like to walk around with a missing front tooth.


Wearing instructions

After the dental flipper has been properly adjusted, you wear it and use it the same way you've done this entire time. Nonetheless, it's still good to review the dos and don'ts with using this temporary but necessary removable prosthesis.


Dos:

  • Take it on and off with your fingers only.

  • Clean it regularly with a wet toothbrush without toothpaste.

  • Denture cleansers are okay to use.


Don'ts:

  • Don't put it on by biting into it.

  • Do not sleep with it on.

  • Try not to eat with it.


As long as you take care of it, it should last you for your entire implant journey. Misuse or improper use can shorten its lifespan thus necessitating an early replacement. Flippers aren't exactly the most durable because they're only meant to be temporary so please do give them their due respect and try to take care of them.


Should I continue to wear the tooth flipper?

We recommend continuing to wear your flipper until you get the final permanent crown. Typically if you have the healing abutment already, it means that you should be getting it within the next 2-4 weeks.


You've worn it all this time so what is just another month to go?


With that being said, if you really don't want to wear it anymore that is completely up to you. Not having it on will not affect the healing process in any way whatsoever. You will still be able to get your implant crown, granted nothing happens to the healing abutment such as if it falls off. That is literally the only complication that can potentially delay you from receiving your crown.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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