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Will a pediatric dentist make a flipper for my 3-year-old?

My little guy is going on three years old and he’s been without his front teeth for several months now. He was playing with our black lab one day and did a face plant. One tooth was knocked out then and there and the other was broken so badly the dentist had to remove it. When it happened, I was just so grateful that he was ok that I didn’t think about replacing the teeth. However, at his last checkup I mentioned getting a flipper made. I’d seen them done on those pageant shows with kids, so I know they can be made in child sizes, but the doctor got an attitude with me and acted like I’d said the most ludicrous thing she’d ever heard. She said there was no way my son would sit still long enough to have one made, and promptly dismissed my concerns. Yes, I’m worried about how it looks, but I’m also concerned about his teeth shifting and how it affects his eating. Was she right that a flipper can’t be made? If so, what are the other options? — Christine

Dear Christine,
It’s a shame your dentist didn’t spend the time with you that you and your child deserved. While it sounds like her behavior was off, her answer was not, though it would have been nice of her to explain the logic behind it.

Yes, they do make flippers for children, and even toddlers, on those shows, but they’re not worn for long. Generally, you’ll see this with the older contestants, because ones who are especially little, like yours, aren’t cooperative enough for the procedure. On top of this, children’s mouths grow so fast (just like the rest of them), that a flipper isn’t going to fit for very long. Small objects like flippers also pose a choking hazard to little ones, because they’re fragile and designed to be easily taken in and out of the mouth.

The other teeth shifting isn’t a huge concern when the front teeth are missing. Pediatric dentists mostly worry about it with the back teeth, and devices called “spacers” are used to keep the spot open until the adult tooth arrives. It’s doubtful that the missing teeth are impacting how your son eats. Kids readily adapt to changes like this, and at his age, the absent teeth are all he knows. He’s probably compensating for it by using the teeth adjacent to the spaces. If he’s eating nutritious food, energetic, and growing, there really isn’t cause for concern.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Alana Macalik. For more information on the services she provides, visit her Arlington cosmetic dentist website.