A "flipper" is patient slang for a temporary, removable partial denture made of acrylic that is used to replace one or more missing teeth. "Stayplate" is the correct name. Stayplates are typically used to replace front teeth until the patient can have a bridge or a partial denture made to replace the teeth.
Reasons for a Flipper
Normally a bridge is made to replace a front tooth. A bridge fits on the teeth on either side of the missing tooth, with an artificial tooth fused in between. A bridge cannot be made until the bone and gum where the tooth used to be have entirely healed. For aesthetic reasons, a flipper or temporary partial denture replaces the missing tooth until the bridge can be made.The flipper fits behind the back of the teeth and is held in place by suction and a little bit of denture adhesive.
Why Is It Called a Flipper?
Because the interim partial denture usually has nothing holding it to the teeth, hitting it in just right place when talking or eating can cause it to pop out of the mouth. It also may flip down in the front, rising off the soft palate. A lower flipper can loosen or fall out from behind the lower teeth. It is easily moved around with the tongue and the wearer can literally flip it out of his mouth with a flick of the tongue.
Problems with Eating with a Flipper
A flipper is designed for cosmetic benefit, and should not be used to bite into food or chew. A flipper should be taken out of the mouth and put away prior to eating. If the wearer eats with the flipper, there is a strong chance he will break it and swallow the tooth. Another problem with attempting to eat with a flipper is the possibility of getting food caught underneath the acrylic, causing discomfort and possibly damaging the flipper.
What to Do If a Flipper Breaks
If a flipper breaks, it depends on the break itself whether it can be repaired. Save any broken parts, including the tooth, and contact the dentist. In some cases, the dentist can grind down the old acrylic where the break is and add new acrylic. Once the acrylic sets, the dentist uses a drill to refine the flipper and remove excess acrylic. The dentist polishes the flipper, checks the bite and returns the flipper to the patient.