How do I manage my flipper / retainer?
September 18, 2015 4:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm wearing a flipper to fill a toothless gap in the front of my mouth. This is my first full day with it. I need tips/tricks/advice on taking it out discretely at meals and not losing it.

On Wednesday one of the teeth in the front of my mouth (#7) broke, leaving a prominent toothless spot in my smile. You can also see the toothless spot when I talk. The tooth had a root canal and apicoectomy prior, so there is no pain. A bridge or a crown won't do in this situation. I'm going to start the dental implant process, but that's going to take 7-9 months. In the meantime, I have a flipper. It's a retainer with a fake tooth on it. It looks like my original tooth and I'm very happy with it.

The flipper can stay in all day, but I have to take it out when I eat, as per the dentist. Here are my questions for the flipper veterans here.

1) With it in, I have a slight speech impediment. Is this just a practice maketh - I mean makes - perfect thing?

2) Sometimes I attend lunches and dinners for work. What are your tips for discretely popping this sucker out and eating without drawing attention to the missing tooth? My immediate coworkers know (this happened at work. Yay.) but I don't want EVERYONE to see it. Am I doomed to soups in public 'til Spring? Or do I just own the gap until it's all over and be prepared to retell the details over and over?

3) It cost me $700 and I don't want to lose it. Please give me tips for popping this in and out for not-at-home meals and not losing it. The case is giant and unsightly and has DENTAL APPLIANCE on it and that makes me not want to leave it in plain sight.

Thank you in advance. No dental implant horror stories, please. I sort of know what's coming.
posted by kimberussell to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had one of those for a front tooth and was never told to take it out at mealtime. Is it possible you misunderstood dentist's directions? Your dentist perhaps meant don't bite into things with it- apples comes to mind- just cut your food up and chew it normally. Mine was plenty strong enough to withstand chewing. It's a good idea to take it out and at least rinse it off aftermeals.

As far as the lisp goes, your mouth will adjust. I remember it only took a day or two.
posted by mareli at 4:56 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Depending on the size of this thing, you may be able to find a classy pill box that fits it perfectly.
posted by phunniemee at 5:03 AM on September 18, 2015

I had plates when I was in primary school and had to take them out at lunch. I just put them into the box that they came with, which kind of looked like one of these but not quite as sleek looking. It was hot pink, so not at all discreet. But I think that's actually better, because if the box somehow ends up getting thrown into a bin, you're going to have better luck finding it. Your coworkers already know about your fake tooth, so I don't see why you need to hide it.

At the restaurant I was working at last year, a guest left some kind of dental plate in a tissue on her table and it got cleared with her dishes. It was a big drama and two different servers had to go through the bin to find it. So please don't do something like that because you're embarrassed about having the not so discreet dental device box.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 5:25 AM on September 18, 2015

I was allowed to keep mine in during meals. I would then sneak off and discreetly clean it in the bathroom sink after. Perhaps you could keep it in during public meals and just eat carefully? I had one because I had an adult tooth that never came in and the baby tooth finally gave out after 37 years. It was the eye tooth I believe? Up front and obvious, at any rate. The lisp improved after about a week but came back when I was tired. This is my first public acknowledgement of having this happen. My children had no idea, even after seeing me laid up for a week after implantation. It is possible to be very discreet.
posted by myselfasme at 5:39 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Echoing marel and myselfasme, my dad has a flipper for one of his front teeth and has never had to remove it to eat, though he does of course cut up things like apples. I would definitely clarify this instruction with your dentist.

If you do decide to remove the flipper to eat, here is what I suggest. Before your meal, make a trip to the restroom - you can tell your companions that you want to wash your hands - and remove the flipper and place it in its case. Eat your meal. Afterwards, you can sneak off to the restroom and discreetly pop the flipper back in. I bet your dining companions won't even notice the gap while you're eating - people don't usually look into others' mouths during meals in my experience.

Good luck!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:44 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the advice so far. I should have clarified better, but it was early. My dentist told me I *should* take it out to eat, but I didn't *have* to. I guess I could chew on the other side. Or do soups.
posted by kimberussell at 5:51 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is no reason to remove it during meals! When you do need to take it out, just put it in a case -- you can get one that looks like a compact or whatever.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:52 AM on September 18, 2015

Yes, my dad is a dentist and I've had a flipper, he never told me to take it out for meals--DO NOT bite things with it, cut things up and chew carefully--then rinse it after. Also, if it starts to taste gross, you can leave it in a cup of denture cleaner (polident or whatever) overnight. Brush it with your toothbrush/toothpaste too.
posted by leesh at 6:05 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had the post-braces type of retainer when I was a kid, and had a gawdawful lisp for a few days before I got used to it.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:36 AM on September 18, 2015

You can leave it in while eating, but chewed food will collect in the retainer and no tongue contortions seem able to get it out. You'll have to go to the bathroom when you're done eating and rinse it out in the sink. Otherwise you can just pop it out into a tissue and stick it in your pocket or bag before eating. People will of course ask about it loudly, because in general people are stupid and rude.

The speech impediment will go away with time.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:40 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would take it out when eating.

Put the case with it IN YOUR POCKET or IN YOUR PURSE if it is not IN YOUR MOUTH. It is waaaaay too expensive to accidentally throw out, and then you have to dig through trash (or other people do for you, which is even worse).

Please develop a habit of immediately putting the case with it IN YOUR POCKET or IN YOUR PURSE.

You can get a cuter/nicer case.

People really shouldn't care about it, but I understand your self-consciousness.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 9:19 AM on September 18, 2015

Leave it in to eat out, make judicious food choices. You don't have to limit yourself to soup, just avoid things you have to bite into with your front teeth as opposed to things you put in your mouth cut and chew with your molers. And yes, rinse after the meal.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:36 PM on September 18, 2015

Hello! Thank you for all of your answers! I wanted to follow up for future panicked Googlers.

I'm a month in and ... I really don't give a crap about being seen without it anymore. Sometimes I'll eat with it in, carefully. I've developed a fondess for risotto when eating out. Sometimes I whip that sucker out and eat with gusto. I bought a hot pink mouthguard case off of Amazon which is smaller and kickier than the DENTAL APPLIANCE case.

I keep it in all day and take it out at night. Speaking is much better as long as I'm not tired or fast-talking.

And that's it. My extraction is next month, and if everything looks good at that time the'll put the bone graft in. Fingers crossed!
posted by kimberussell at 10:10 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

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