Front Tooth Implant Part 2: Flipper

A few days ago I wrote about part one of my front tooth implant experience, which involved extracting the fractured tooth and bone grafting. Today I have moved on to part 2, getting my “flipper” tooth. To my knowledge it’s more common than not that one would get a flipper on the same day as the extraction and bone grafting, however as noted previously my flipper was not ready on the day of my appointment and I opted to continue as planned rather than reschedule.

So what exactly is a flipper? A flipper is a lightweight, removable denture that is used as a temporary replacement while waiting for the gums and bone to heal and become strong enough to support an implant. They are primarily made of acrylic resin and the false teeth from plastic or porcelain. There are also some oral health benefits in addition to the obvious aesthetic improvement, such as helping to diminish bone loss, minimizing teeth shifting, and protecting the site of the extracted tooth to aid in healing.  In addition, they can also improve one’s ability to bite or chew food while awaiting an implant [source: HowStuffWorks].

Getting the flipper placed was painless due to the molding done a few weeks earlier. The dentist made some precautionary adjustments to the flipper where he thought it might irritate my gums based on how it fit. There is no metal in my flipper, it’s held in place by plastic molding which wraps around the adjacent teeth on either side. I have not worn it a lot yet as the dentist told me to minimize the use during this first week while my gums are still healing from the extraction to help avoid bacteria, but so far I am happy with it and optimistic that it won’t take too long to adjust to this new lifestyle. It was, however, very strange going shopping for denture cleaner at the store today. :)

Here are some pictures from today:

The flipper:

front tooth flipper

With the flipper in place:

front tooth flipper selfie

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Front Tooth Implant Part 1: Extraction and Bone Grafting

Today I took the first step in what will be the long process of getting a dental implant for one of my front teeth. As someone who likes to educate myself about medical procedures before undergoing them, I found it difficult to find experiences from others that have already been through it – notwithstanding this excellent dental implant review by Lanna Lee. As a result, I’ve decided to write about my own experience to hopefully provide more details for others who will be undertaking this process in the future.

First, a brief back story. About four months ago I had a root canal done on the tooth by my dentist and continued having problems when something would strike up against the bottom of the tooth. After about a month of working with my dentist I went to see an endodontist who re-did the root canal but the pain continued to persist. After this I decided to get a second opinion and went to see a different dentist. The results of the second dentist’s consultation were inconclusive as well, however he had a hunch that there may be a fracture in the tooth which conventional x-rays may not be able to register. He referred me to an oral surgeon for a CT scan and consultation. At the oral surgeon’s office the diagnosis immediately became clear once the CT scan results came back, fractured tooth in two places. Once the diagnosis of fractured tooth was confirmed then the prognosis was clear, extraction and dental implant. Shortly afterward I went to the dentist to have molding done for a temporary “flipper” in advance of my appointment with the oral surgeon which was this morning.

My appointment was at 7 a.m. which means I was not permitted to eat or drink anything after midnight because I am a huge baby when it comes to the dentist and opted to be put under general anesthesia. The appointment this morning was very quick, I was in and out in roughly 45 minutes, and I do not remember much of it due to the anesthesia. What I can say is what the oral surgeon performed on me today. First he extracted the fractured tooth and second he did a bone graft using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in order to improve the quantity and quality of the bone for the eventual placement of the dental implant.

Platelet-rich plasma is a process whereby a small amount of the patient’s own blood is drawn and placed into a centrifuge to separate platelets from the blood and into a plasma by-product. With recent technological advances this process can occur in as little as 15 minutes, thus making it ideal for outpatient procedures. Because PRP uses the patient’s own blood it is very safe and disease transmission is not an issue. It also promotes faster healing by increasing the rate of tissue synthesis and regeneration. For more details on PRP and it’s application in oral surgery see this article on the NIH website.

Unfortunately, my “flipper” was not ready in time for my appointment today so I have spent the day confined at home. It’s expected to be available for pickup tomorrow and once I get it I’ll write another post on that topic. All-in-all the procedure itself was painless since I was under general anesthesia, the IV beforehand was the most painful part of the experience. Since coming home, there has been some pain but it has not been excruciating. Your doctor will give you some pain medication to take if needed, I was also given antibiotics and special mouthwash.

Here are before and after pictures from today:

Before extraction:

dental implant before abstraction

Immediately after extraction with gauze:

dental implant post-abstraction with gauze

A few hours post-extraction with gauze removed:

dental implant post-abstraction no gauze

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