Why Use an Essix Retainer Versus a Flipper During Dental Implant Therapy

February 16, 2024 Lee Ann Brady DMD

Why Use an Essix Retainer Versus a Flipper During Dental Implant Therapy 

Lee Ann Brady, DMD 

When it comes to choosing a provisional during implant therapy in the anterior aesthetic zone, we have two removable options. One is called a “flipper.” It’s an interim partial denture composed of an acrylic base and a denture tooth. The other is an Essix retainer.  

There is no question that both options are taxing for the patient for the three to five months that the patient is edentulous and must deal with having this removable device to replace the tooth. So, I always tell my patients that they are going to have to manage the provisional for that time, but it’s worth it because, in the end, they have replaced the tooth with an implant with all the benefits of an implant versus an alternative prosthetic solution. 

In my practice, I use Essix retainers in nearly 100% of the cases. Why? Because an Essix retainer is tooth-borne. The pressure is placed on the teeth and not on the surgical site. In the case of a flipper, the prosthesis is primarily tissue-borne with a little pressure placed on the adjacent teeth. We really don’t want any pressure on the surgical site while it is healing. Pressure can induce biological problems in bone grafts and connective tissue, which affect the long-term outcome. From an aesthetic perspective, the most challenging thing about anterior implant aesthetics is replicating the size, shape, and position of the tissues of the alveolar ridge and papilla. I want to do everything I can to eliminate pressure on the healing tissue. 

In my practice, we do Essix retainers that don’t have a full solid tooth in them. Instead, we simply paint flowable on the facial so that there’s zero pressure anywhere around that surgical site after extraction, after grafting, and after implant placement.  

In addition to explaining the improved outcomes associated with using an Essix retainer, I assure my patients that the retainer will be more comfortable to wear than a denture and be easily removed by them for eating, for drinking liquids other than water that are likely to stain the retainer, for teeth cleaning, and for cleaning the prosthesis. When out in public, such as in a restaurant, patients may carefully eat while wearing the Essix retainer.  

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About Author

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.