Space maintainers are removable or fixed appliances that are placed in the mouth after a primary tooth is prematurely lost in order to preserve space for the permanent tooth. When a primary tooth is lost prematurely, this can cause the surrounding teeth to shift out of their proper position to fill the gap left behind. Unfortunately, this causes problems when the permanent teeth start to erupt. To avoid problems such as overcrowding, crooked teeth, or impacted teeth, space maintainers are recommended. There are different types of space maintainers, including:
- Band-and-Loop Devices: fixed appliance made from stainless steel wire and held in place by orthodontic bands. They are used when one or more primary molars are lost in the same arch.
- Lingual Holding Arches: fixed appliance that maintains space around both sides of the lower molars.
- Transpalatal Arch: fixed appliance that sits on the upper jaw and is held in place by wire around adjacent teeth. It is used to preserve space in the upper arch.
- Distal Shoe: fixed appliance that sits over the baby’s first molar until the primary molar is lost.
- Removable: resemble a partial denture that is made from acrylic and fake teeth to fill in the space left by a missing tooth or teeth. Most commonly used in older children.
Did You Know?
It is normal for primary teeth to have gaps between them. Since primary teeth are smaller than permanent teeth, these gaps ensure there will be enough space for the permanent teeth. As a result, gaps between the teeth tend to disappear once the permanent teeth have erupted.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does my child need a space maintainer?
Your child may need a space maintainer if they lost a primary tooth to trauma, damage, or decay before the tooth would naturally be lost. However, whether or not your child needs a space maintainer will depend on their age, as well as the location of the lost tooth. For example, if your child prematurely loses a primary tooth, but the permanent tooth will erupt somewhat soon, a space maintainer may not be necessary. On the other hand, if the permanent tooth is not going to erupt for a few years, then a space maintainer is likely to be recommended. Only your child’s dentist at Carr Pediatric Dentistry can determine if a space maintainer is needed.
What can my child expect when getting a space maintainer?
To fabricate a space maintainer, a dental impression may be needed. During a dental impression, your child will have a metal tray filled with flavored impression material placed in their mouth for about a minute. As this material hardens into a rubber-like consistency, it will allow the dentist to make a model of your child’s mouth so a proper-fitting space maintainer can be made.
Once the space maintainer has been placed, you and your child can expect somewhat regular dental visits to evaluate your child’s oral hygiene, jaw growth, and permanent teeth progression. In some cases, minor adjustments may need to be made to the space maintainer to make your child comfortable.
How do I care for my child’s space maintainer?
To care for your child’s space maintainer, you will need to make sure they are practicing good oral hygiene habits. This means brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day. It is also important that your child avoid chewing gum, excessively hard candy, and playing with their appliance to prevent the appliance from becoming damaged.